Bitter battle over illegal building work

Zipho Sandla says his neighbour has blocked his driveway with an unapproved construction project.

A bitter war is brewing between neighbours in B Section of Khayelitsha’s Site C.

The feud has escalated to the point that Zipho Sandla’s neighbour has blocked his driveway, making it difficult for Mr Sandla to access his property.

Mr Sandla told Vukani that when his mother bought the house in 2015 his neighbours had shacks behind their house which had encroached on part of their yard.

He said last year he informed his neighbour that he was going to build a yard around the house and she must remove the shacks, which she agreed to.

Mr Sandla said he was shocked when he returned home from work one day to find a foundation being dug out in his yard and that his gate’s rail had been removed.

He said his neighbour claimed she had not been around when the contractors were working and that her uncle had been supervising them.

Mr Sandla said he asked them to fix the problem as he would not be able to park his car in the yard if things remained as they were.

When his requests were ignored, he asked community leaders to assist him but they advised him to report the matter to the City of Cape Town.

“I reported the matter to City and received a case number. An inspector visited this place and said what had been done was wrong. The inspector gave them a letter to sign, which they refused to sign. This is indicated in that letter.“

The inspector informed him that he would open a case against them, Mr Sandla told Vukani.

“Every time I called the inspector to find out the status of the matter, he would be annoyed. I then opted to lodge a formal complaint with the City’s ombudsman,” he said.

Mr Sandla said in March his neighbour appeared in court but the case was postponed to May. This, however, didn’t go ahead because of the lockdown restrictions.

This is the letter that the City issued to Zipho Sandla’s neighbours but they refused to sign it.

In August he contacted the City again, expressing his frustration that the matter was still dragging on a year later.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, confirmed that a district building inspector had visited the house in Khayelitsha, on 20 June 2019 “and it was found that boundary walls, a garage and an outbuilding were in the process of being erected”.

Ms Nieuwoudt said a notice to obtain written approval for the unauthorised building work in terms of sections 4(1) and 4(4) of the NBRBSA was issued, but the owner refused to sign for receipt of the notice served on him by the City.

As the owner had not applied for the relevant approvals within the specified 30-day period of the notice served on 20 June 2019, she said, the matter was referred to the prosecutor’s office to be taken to court.

However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the court date has already been postponed twice.

“The matter is now scheduled to serve before court on 5 February 2021,” she said.

Ms Nieuwoudt said before anyone is allowed to do renovations and building extensions, they are required to submit applications for approvals, which may include land use applications (including applications for determination of an Administrative Penalty, and building line departure applications, if building lines are being encroached), as well as building plan approval applications.

Should the required applications not be submitted within the period stipulated on the notice issued by the building inspector, she added, the docket is prepared for submission to municipal prosecutor and the summons to appear in court is prepared and served on the owner.

The outcome could be an admission of guilt where a fine may be imposed. The NBRBSA also makes provision for other types of remedial action to be taken. She said generally, when unauthorised building works were reported to the City, a building inspector would visit the property to ascertain the nature and extent of the work being carried out.

If there is found to be a contravention of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act No 103 of 1977 (NBRBSA), she said, the relevant official can serve a notice in terms of this legislation, requiring the owner to obtain the necessary written approval from the City of Cape Town.

Vukani was unable to obtain a contact number for the neighbour in question, so our reporter went to her house. She, however, was not there at the time and we were unable to contact her for a response.