Property development giants Century Property Development has defended its role in the Auckland Park student accommodation saga, which got the City of Joburg’s building control officer (BCO) fired for gross negligence.
The matter was investigated after residents raised the alarm that the four- and six-storey student residence on Streatley Avenue was illegal, would be aesthetically bad for the area, and devalue properties in the area – one of the oldest in Johannesburg, established in 1888.
Azwindini Mulaudzi was fired after an internal disciplinary hearing found him guilty on charges of gross negligence, which caused the municipality reputation, credibility and financial damages. He was put on suspension in April last year, pending an internal forensic investigation, which uncovered irregularities in the granting of provisional authorisation of earthworks and construction.
Questions have been asked about how a company with decades of experience and access to experts in the property development would bend the rules and why would Mulaudzi would sacrifice more than a decade’s worth of career. Century Property Development’s Mark Corbett has detailed how they used channels that were available to them and have used them for over a decade without a problem, but that there was a change in policy they were unaware of that required separate processes be followed.
He maintains the issue with the BCO was that the building plans were included in the Section 76 National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act application file, and a separate submission was not made to council. Therefore, the building plan submission fees were paid only later when the plans were submitted after proclamation of the site.
Colbert said the late payment was what got the BCO fired, saying they followed procedure but the BCO failed to adhere to the metro’s policy.
The developer, behind some of the most upmarket developments in Johannesburg, has been in and out of court with the metro and at some stage construction on the site was ordered to stop. Colbert said Section 76 was a mechanism that council had put in place allowing property owners to start construction at their own risk if there were administrative points that prevented owners from having their building plans passed.
“There are, however, numerous steps you need to follow prior to you even being able to submit a Section 76 application. The payment of the building plan fees is the last step in the process and this is what the BCO was dismissed for,” he said.
According to Colbert, the reason the Section 76 was applied for was that the rights were not proclaimed as there was a delay with the government printers and the proclamation notice.
“At this point you could not submit the plans due to the council’s own policies. Now, when you submit Section 76 you get a specific letter from the BCO stating that the metro centre must allow you to submit the plans without all the requirements in place for a Section 76, and not common practice at the time, thus the error occurred and the building plan fee was paid late,” Colbert said.
Attempts to get Mulaudzi’s side of the story were fruitless.