Committee rejected new Hillbrow building owner

Naledi Shange, Thomas Hartleb, News24

Johannesburg - The evictions at Williston Court in Hillbrow, Johannesburg were the culmination of a process that began when a building committee rejected the new owner.

“There was a committee in place on the building, which rejected the deed and the new owner,” Mark Ferguson, who has a mandate to represent the new owner, told reporters on Wednesday.

He was speaking after private security company the Red Ants and the sheriff of the court evicted residents from the building on Wednesday morning.

Ferguson said the new owner had to get a high court interdict to stop the committee from trying to get rid of the security guards and from interfering with maintenance crews.

Shortly after that, two flats were damaged in a fire caused by an electrical overload.

“There’s a lot of unsafe wiring in here. This building is old.”

Ferguson said people were running businesses from their flats. He estimated there were between 600 and 700 people in the building. It had 64 flats and “a whole lot of rooms on the roof”.

“So this has been seven or eight months in coming to this point. They’ve been to court. The people have been paying, the committee have been getting rent from the sub-tenants, and they’ve been paying their lawyer to fight the owners in court.

“It got to the stage where the attorney, I believe, has taken the money and has done nothing for them. So they’ve paid a lot of money to fight this case. It’s got to this point where there’s no more fight.”

He disputed claims that the eviction order was not legal. It had gone through all the necessary channels, including the human settlements department.

“Johannesburg city council was happy, the MEC’s office is happy. The police were happy, everyone was happy that this is a legal document.”

Once the building was empty, Ferguson said his job was to secure it and make sure people did not come back in. The owner would then be able to conduct maintenance and make it safe and habitable again.

News24 Source