A massive legal battle is being waged between the Tshwane municipality and a nonprofit corporation which intends selling the Pretoria Showgrounds for a potential profit of R200 million.
The Tshwane Business and Agricultural Corporation (Tshwabac) has blamed the city for falling in arrears with its municipal rates, taxes and water payments to the tune of R8.2 million and deliberately thwarting its plans to sell the showgrounds so that they can cover their debts.
It accused Tshwane of playing a political bureaucratic chess game, putting it in stalemate and holding it to ransom. Tshwabac has twice turned to the High Court in Pretoria for relief when the city threatened to cut its electricity and water supply and also asked the court to lift restrictive conditions attached to the title deed, which would allow it to sell the property for redevelopment and relocate the showgrounds.
It blamed the city’s decision to rezone the property, increase rates and taxes and then to deny it a further waver for a portion of the rates and taxes as the cause of its financial problems. It said the sale would allow it to cover their debts and would increase the city’s direct income with between R7.2 million and R211 million annually, which would be to everyone’s advantage.
According to Tshwabac, more than 32 000 people visited the annual Pretoria show daily; the students of Unisa, the Tshwane University of Technology and the Law Society used the grounds for examinations and up to 30 000 members of the ECG Church used it on Sundays for services.
It had faced riots in the past when it tried to close the grounds.
The city, however, has accused Tshwabac of mismanaging the valuable 30 hectares of prime property – which was given to it at no charge– and insists that it is entitled to have the showgrounds retransferred to the municipality at the corporation’s costs.
The property was originally donated to Tshwabac’s predecessors on condition that it could not be sold without the council’s approval and that the municipality would be entitled to claim retransfer if it failed to use the property for its intended use.
Tshwabec says it has hosted the show for the past 78 years but the present grounds was no longer suitable. Judge Elizabeth Khunushi reserved judgment.