CBD rate reduction request

Posted On Friday, 01 June 2001 03:01 Published by
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Indians want rates rebate

Indians want rates rebate
To outsiders, there is a certain charm about Durban's Grey Street precinct. Its rundown buildings are crammed with bustling bazaars, crowded shops and alley stalls. Overlooking everything are dingy offices, home to small businesses.
The predominantly Indian owners of these properties, however, have a different perspective. They see the 320 or so dilapidated properties on the southwest fringe of the CBD as a wound inflicted by apartheid. They say the area is in urgent need of remedial treatment.
Grey Street Ratepayers' Association is appealing to Durban's ANC-led unicity council to cut rates by 25%. Failure to do so, it says, will result in continued decay, more crime and even more business failures. The rot could spread to other parts of the CBD. The city has agreed to investigate. But treasurer Krish Kumar says a 25% rates cut would initially deprive the metro of R4m in revenue.
In response, ratepayers say a rebate would be an investment in the future because it would stimulate a reversal of Grey Street's decay, and hence increase the rates base.
Their representative, Karsandas Manjee, says the request is based on a Durban ordinance giving the council discretion to grant rebates "where property owners were prejudiced by the Group Areas Act or other historical factors".
Grey Street, he says, fits the bill. Designated Indian under Group Areas in the Fifties, it was targeted by central government, the provincial administration and the city council through a series of legislative and other measures. Their objective, Manjee argues, was to destroy the viability of Indian businesses in the area.
So, though Grey Street property owners paid high rates, development was frozen. Other Durban developers were enjoying a property boom, Manjee says.
Grey Street, he adds, has never recovered and the spiral of decay is destroying businesses, with the result that banks refuse to grant loans in the area. Grey Street experiences the highest number of property repossessions in the CBD.

Publisher: Financial Mail
Source: Herb Payne

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