Joburg to force sale of Mandela building

Posted On Monday, 29 March 2010 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Chancellor House, the building that housed the legal offices of struggle icons Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela is to be expropriated by the City of Johannesburg.

Lael BethlehemAfter attempts to buy the property from Polokwane businessman Aziz Essa failed, the city has decided that the property will undergo a mandatory sale.

"This can be done without the consent of the owner, who we have tried unsuccessfully to convince to sell," said Lael Bethlehem, CEO of the Johannesburg Development Agency.

Essa, whose grandfather acquired the land in 1942 for £23250, says that the property is worth more than R800000. The city maintains that the market value is R350000.

Essa's lawyer, Ismail Ayob, referred to the city's offer as "unreasonable".

The dilapidated building - which has been damaged by fire - was until recently occupied by vagrants, now evicted.

"The structure of the building has been badly damaged and living conditions are both unsafe and unhygienic. For any building this is unacceptable. For a building of such historic importance, the situation is reprehensible," Bethlehem said.

This week Ayob said he had not been informed of the city's plan to proceed with the expropriation.

"We have not heard from the city or their attorneys since sending them a letter in March. They (the city) are acting like they are the owners already. This is the type of thing that the old apartheid government would do," Ayob said.

In 2007 Ayob - who was Mandela's lawyer - was accused of disbursing R2.2-million from the Nelson Mandela Trust without consulting other trustees.

He was removed as a trustee in 2005 after a court battle over the unauthorised sale of Mandela-themed artworks. Ayob also made claims that Mandela refused to pay taxes and approved the dodgy payments.

The row came to an end in 2007 after Ayob agreed to pay back part of the R2.2-million.

This week, Bethlehem said Ayob's client could contest the city's action and that the expropriation would be at the law's discretion.

"A mandatory sale at market price removes any choice previously afforded to the owner. This is done when the government needs property earmarked for public service, as is the case here," she said.

The city has budgeted R10-million for the renovation of the building. However, based on the severity of the damage, the project could cost more.

"That's the figure that has been allocated but there is extensive water, fire and structural damage and we have not been allowed access to the building due to the fact that the owner does not want to sell, so costs to restore are likely to be more," she said.

Bethlehem said the building would look "more or less the same" as it did in its glory days.

"It will still be a small office block that will house legal services as it did back in the day. The city's own legal council and nonprofit organisations might find a home there," Bethlehem said.


Last modified on Thursday, 15 May 2014 22:11

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