No campaign can stop us, City Manager tells Stables’ objectors

Carlos Catalino from Hoy Park management, City Manager, Sibusiso Sithole and Vijay Balram from the Department of Sports and Recreaction, KZN.

THE development of the Hoypark Academy and sporting precinct will go ahead. So said City Manager Sibusiso Sithole at a media briefing on Wednesday morning on the controversy surrounding the eviction of tenants at the Stables Lifestyle Market and Newmarket Stables.

Sithole was adamant that the development would go ahead, adding: “No minority interest will prevent [the development] from moving forward. No amount of public campaigning is going to stop the project from proceeding.”

The city government’s stance on the matter has raised the ire of those facing eviction who, at a meeting organised by ward councillor Martin Meyer on Tuesday night, loudly applauded suggestions that they take their concerns over the manner in which authorities have failed to follow procedures, to court.

At the public meeting on Tuesday night, ward councillors and tenants agreed that they were not opposed to the development of the sports academy, but the way the City had handled the issue.

“Ultimately we think the decision was unjust and unfair. We believe that municipality acted undemocratically and unprocedurally, which is indicative of how the City makes decisions which are not in the best interest of residents. This decision has been taken to the detriment of many families, the equestrian community and the horses at the stables,” said councillor Nicole Graham, who served as chairman at the meeting.

Ward councillor Martin Meyer said he supported the decision to build the academy and was not necessarily opposed to it being at the stables’ site, but he believed in fairness and due process and felt the tender and eviction process had not been followed correctly.

“The city manager was mandated to advertise publicly the intent to lease the land to Hoy Park Pty Ltd. and consult with tenants, which was not done. Politically we have exhausted all options, but we will keep fighting the fight,” he said.

Hlanganani Gumbi from the portfolio committee for sports and recreation in KZN, concurred with Meyer. “People involved can’t ride roughshod over the tenants and this is where the problem lies,” he said.

Nadine Parker from Newmarket Stables said she felt the city hadn’t thought the matter through, and said it would be impossible for the Stables to move by month end.

“On 1 September we will be there, we can’t be dragged out. From what I understand, the city will get an eviction notice of motion to be served on us, and we will defend this, we are now going the legal route,” she said.

At the press briefing on Wednesday, Sithole outlined the background to the building of the academy and said the idea emanated from the experience of hosting a successful 2010 soccer world cup.

“We were excited about the facilities we built, but questioned what would come next and how we would use the facilities to build on these successes. The city didn’t have the one important ingredient, and that is an academy. It was agreed, together with the province, for such a facility to be built. We didn’t have the experience as government so it was important to establish partnerships with roleplayers such as Hoy Park,” he said.

He said rather than use the grounds at Hoy Park for development, the City felt the best location was the sporting precinct itself.

With the bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games looking positive for Durban, as well as the major sporting competitions as part of preparation for the Games and the goal to host the Olympics in the future, Sithole said it was important to create a conducive environment for sports development, such as the academy and high performance centre.

“We are a world class city and the facility should be world class too. The city is not insensitive to the tenants, but within the context of the law we were perfectly entitled to exercise our rights and terminate the leases. They have been given sufficient time to make further arrangements,” he said.

Carlos Catalino from Hoy Park management gave an outline of the academy and high performance centre. He said it was envisioned that 88 boys from rural areas would be given the opportunity to attend the academy. He said Hoy Park was in discussion with other sporting codes such as hockey and cycling, with the focus on sports development. The fact that the chairman of Berea Rovers was the president of KZN Squash, and hosted 50 children every Saturday where they are taught how to play the sport fitted nicely with this vision, he said.

When questioned by media, Sithole admitted the project would cost a total of R300 million, with the contribution from the city and province at R52 million and the balance from Hoy Park. Councillor Meyer said this information brought to question if this is why Hoy Park, who according to him has no valid lease with the municipality, was being allowed to act on behalf of the City in negotiating with tenants.

Province has allocated R30 million to be paid over three years to the development. However, the first instalment of R10, which was rolled over last year, must be spent before end of the financial year in March 2016.

“We have to spend the money allocated to us so we need to start building before December,” said Sithole.

Lauren Walford

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