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Thursday Feb 13, 2014

Cape Town evicts resort leaseholder over arrears

Staff at a holiday resort owned by the City of Cape Town, in a prime spot near Cape Point and Boulders Beach, have been evicted and now find themselves jobless and homeless following a lengthy dispute between their boss and the city over a small fortune in service arrears.

Staff at the Oatlands Holiday Village in Simon's Town have been left homeless and unemployed after being evicted.

Thirteen permanent staffers and two residents, who rented homes at the Oatlands Holiday Village in Simon's Town, were served with an eviction order on Tuesday. The sheriff of the court swooped on the premises, evicting the management and staff before locking them out of the offices.

The resort had, until recently, been managed by a lessee, the Oatlands Holiday Village (Pty) Ltd - owned by Gerbrecht Elisabet Coetzee - as part of a contract with the city.

Coetzee's attorney, Malcolm Gessler, said that his client had already issued summons in the high court requiring the city to 'negotiate in good faith in respect of the relationship between the CCC and Oatlands Holiday Village (Pty) Ltd, as well as debatement of the accounts rendered by the Cape Town City Council.'

Belinda Walker, the city's mayoral committee member for community services and special projects, confirmed that the lessee had allowed significant service arrears to accumulate. 'The city was therefore forced to take legal action.'

Walker said an eviction order was granted which required the lessee to vacate the property by February 7.

Shocked staffers said that they only heard about the eviction order when it arrived on Tuesday.

The workers, along with their families, were ordered to pack up their belongings and leave the facility within 24 hours. Outraged staff had to break the news to their families and, while a handful refused to leave, others sought alternative accommodation with family and friends, with some claiming that they would have to camp outside the facility. Bonnita Howes, a former manager at the resort, said that she had not been paid for the past month and was in the process of selling her furniture at a fraction of the price just to get by.

'We will have to sleep on the pavement outside with my three children. I do not know what to do, this is a nightmare,' she said.

She added that they had been given an extension until tomorrow, which came with a warning: that their 'belongings will be attached if still on the premises after the deadline'.

Howes said that her policeman husband had to take off work.

'We will likely have to settle for a caravan park. There is no money, we don't have anything left,' she said.

Howes said that she'd managed to inform some of the clients who had booked the conference facilities and were expected to pay deposits of more than R200 000 this week.

'There are businesses that paid holding fees of R10 000 to secure the place, they need to be refunded. One booking alone would have brought in R120 000 and the other R104 000,' she added. She said clients included church groups and businesses, and that even overseas bookings would now not be accommodated.

John Austen, the former assistant bookings manager at the facility, said he had not expected to be without work this week. 'Now me and my family are homeless,' he said.

Austen questioned why the city had refused to keep the facility open as it was still making money.

He claimed that the resort would have generated about R300 000 in the next few weeks. 'Why not keep on running the place and let us find jobs (in the meantime)?' he added.

Walker said: 'Had the lessee complied with their lease agreement, they could have renewed their lease and ensured the employment of their staff.'
Retired DA councillor Nicki Holderness, who has been raising concerns about the running of Oatlands resort for several years, said her biggest concern is it would be vandalised.

'It is shocking that this situation should have arisen, where there has been no public statement on the matter and no information forthcoming,' she said.

Cape Argus


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