City to auction Zim consul

Half a million and counting. Debt from unpaid rent and maintenance costs at the derelict Zimbabwe consulate office here has ballooned in the past year and continues to rise.

The Zimbabwean Consulate building in Cape Town – abandoned by government and at the mercy of vandals.
The Zimbabwean Consulate building in Cape Town – abandoned by government and at the mercy of vandals.

The local authority is now exploring legal ways to recover the debt. This could mean putting the property up for auction. It was left derelict by the Zimbabwe Government five years ago. Located at 53-55 Kuyper Street in the city centre, the embassy was abandoned for unexplained reasons in 2006, leaving it at the mercy of vandals.

This national asset, valued at several million rands, has fallen into wrack and ruin and the unpaid debt is mounting at an alarming rate.

In October last year, the Harare government owed the City of Cape Town slightly over R200 000. That debt has now more than doubled, according to an official.

Renovations were begun at the property last year, but Gavin Oliver, of the City’s Problematic Buildings Unit, said no more activity was taking place and all openings were boarded shut.

“The outstanding cost from all the action that the various departments from the City have applied to the Zimbabwe Consulate is more than R500 000,” Oliver exclusively told The Zimbabwean, early this week. He said no response had been received from the Zimbabwean authorities, despite communication from his council on how to settle the outstanding amount.

“Our Litigation Law Department is currently busy with the process of attaching the property at the High Court and the time period is unknown,” said Oliver. “Currently the building is being guarded by a private security company at the expense of the City of Cape Town. The building is still empty and there has been no interest from the Zimbabwe government in coming back. The City will also seek to recover these costs from the Zimbabwean government.”

No comment could be obtained from the government on the issue. Included in the debt are charges for renovations and security, for which the host city has vainly sent several letters to the government. The local authority is now acting on a new by-law, which mandates it to take over the maintenance of abandoned buildings and then invoice the buildings’ owners after renovations.

Prior to the renovations, the building had become so dirty that it had been affecting the local neighbourhood with a heavy stench of uncollected garbage and human waste. Should the government continue to turn a deaf ear, the building will be auctioned.

The building is one of four properties that were up for auction last February, after civil society movement, AfriForum, on behalf of the Commercial Farmer’s Union, successfully approached the North Gauteng High Court to have government properties seized and auctioned to reimburse farmers whose land was expropriated.

The move came after the SADC Tribunal’s ruling that the land reform process was illegal and racist and ordered compensation to be paid to the farmers. That process was put on hold, after the Zimbabwe government launched an application with both the North and the South-Gauteng High Court to set the decision aside.

Post published in: Africa News

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