The Tshwane municipality and a non-profit organisation are locked in a tug of war over the historic Old Fire Station building from which the organisation runs arts and craft projects in the city centre.
Tshwane wants Ngezandla Zethu (meaning “with our hands”) Arts‚ Crafts and Design Hub out of the 104-year-old property the organisation has occupied since November 2013.
The building is more than 60 years old and this puts the building under the protection of section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act. The site was a dumping site before a fire station was built in 1912.
The organisation runs up to 20 projects in the building‚ training people from previously marginalised communities in visual and performing arts and crafts as well as music classes.
After numerous failed attempts to throw the organisation out‚ the municipality has since approached the High Court in Pretoria for an eviction order.
Tshwane argues in court papers that the organisation is occupying the building illegally.
In a letter to the organisation dated November 12‚ 2013‚ the municipality gave the organisation permission to use the building on the corner of Minnaar and Bosman streets “whilst matters pertaining to the lease agreements and other areas on the occupancy are dealt with… ”
The municipality made an about-turn in a letter dated July 14‚ 2015‚ revoking the permission‚ stating that it had no intention to enter into a lease agreement with the organisation.
In his founding affidavit‚ the municipality’s director of litigation management‚ Tshepo Sithole‚ said the manager of the organisation‚ Thsepo Nkamba-Van Wyk‚ hired out office space to other organisations.
“The city views the first respondent’s conduct as unlawful hijacking of the property. None of these occupiers has a valid or otherwise lease agreement with the city allowing them to remain on the property‚” Sithole said in court papers.
The municipality stated in its papers that it needs the building as it experienced a dire shortage of office space for its municipal operations.