Digging the Earth: How deep is your bunker?

Falling Rocks: Owning the Mountain

The jury is still out on whether the collapse of the guesthouse associated with the self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ TB Joshua was accidental, deliberate or greed-driven. When the rubble had been turned over, more than a hundred residents lay dead: at least eight-four of them were South Africans who had defied the Ebola threat to seek divine intervention for their particular needs. For nearly two months, the cries have been going out from the families of the dead asking for the return of their bodies. But is such devastating collapse of buildings happening only beyond the shores of South Africa? As we continue with our Global Greed Series, our investigation shows that we are not as safe as we might like to believe. Various local authorities are entangled with unscrupulous builders, some of whom appear to think that owning a truck and employing a few bricklayers qualifies them to be constructors. And their shoddy workmanship can be seen not only in low-cost (RDP) homes...

In Brief

  • In Gordon’s Bay a couple’s project to remodel a multi-million dollar property has neighbours seething. Cape Town City’s Planning and Building Development Management Department has remained mute
  • Meanwhile, work on the development continues and residents are worried of the possible disastrous effects that unapproved developments can cause

Several City of Cape Town residents have contacted us with stories about their neighbours who have decided to make improvements to their homes based on unapproved plans. As we weed through the heaps of records we have received, of most interest are those home-owners who have decided to do it themselves [why pay engineers while you can just easily build that bunker or swimming pool you’ve always wanted and cheaply?] 

Screw the earth: The digging is unstoppable

At the top of the list are the joint owners of a property located at No. 115 Beach Road, Gordon’s Bay. Yes, one of the areas governed from Sub-Council 8. Covering an area of 809 square metres, the property identified at the Deeds Office as Erf 267 has its own tales. It was acquired in 1969 for an undisclosed amount [it was probably free] by Eric Kingwell Green who subsequently sold it in 2000 for R750,000 to a close corporation called Jack Rabbit Commercial. Five years later, the property was passed on for R3.5million to a Thomas Fischer, who offloaded it to a Matthews Family Trust a year later for R3.95million.

In 2009, as the forensic audit was being launched into the area’s Planning and Building Development Management Department, Fischer sold the property to another couple, Ursla Marona Coetzee and Petrus Johannes Lourens Coetzee, for R5.1million. This couple did not keep it for long; a year later, they gained a profit of a million rand when they passed it on to Magrietha Isabella Booysen and Pieter Wouter Booysen. Then, the digging began...

A year after spending R6.1million to acquire the property, the Booysens managed to secure a R4million bond from ABSA Bank. Whatever they planned to construct on the land must have sounded impressive enough for the bank to accord them the bond. But when they started their development, once again some ‘interested and affected’ residents discovered that not much had changed within the Planning and Building Development Management Department. Repeated queries to the City for clarification were ignored.

The Booysens, with their self-appointed builder(s), commenced excavation. Neighbours became increasingly concerned as tons of rocks were daily trucked off the property. It was only in February 2014 that the residents received an invitation from the City for comments on a proposed departure from the Cape Town Zoning Scheme for Erf 267. Their objections, despite being filed in time, never received a response – to date, it is not clear whether the property has been rezoned or not.  In September 2014, tired of waiting for officials to act, some of the civic organisations based in the area resubmitted their earlier objections, but this time they copied them to the Office of the Executive Mayor.

...I was away on leave...

Two days after the email was sent to a Daan Visser, he wrote back: “...I was away on leave... I will again investigate the matter and revert to you shortly with my findings.” The ‘shortly’ has turned into weeks and still counting.

Nearly a month after the September 18 email was dispatched to the City, Anvor Clayton (Specialist Clerk: Office of the Executive Mayor) sent an email to Gavin Van Schalkwyk  (Manager: Support and Services Coordination at the City’s Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning) asking if he could investigate the matter. Yes: asking, not instructing. Did Van Schalkwyk agree to have the matter investigated? Our repeated attempts to locate him at City Hall were unsuccessful; he was either out for the day or just not in – or could it be that he was out investigating other irregular structures?

uSpiked then received an email from an Administrative Officer in Van Schalkwyk’s department declining to discuss the matter with the media.

In the meantime, on our recent visit to the site, we found no visible signage indicating the nature of the works that are being undertaken nor the professionals involved. The few workers that were at the scene wore no protective gear. The public has no means of knowing the identities of engineers, if any, responsible for the site. Has the City completely lost sight of its priorities? Should we just wait until Mother Nature herself fights back against the unregulated encroachment into the base of the mountain? 

In the meantime, uSpiked has sourced detailed checklist that could assist new build-it-yourself homeowners.


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