Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, has had to weather a fair number of storms recently. This once beautiful city has been brought to its knees by a local municipality that allegedly plundered the city’s coffers, leaving the metropolis virtually bankrupt. In August last year, the Msunduzi municipality announced that it only had R4.8m out of the R200m that it needed to service the town’s monthly expenses. This essentially meant that the municipality only had enough resources to operate for three days.Affectionately known as Sleepy Hollow by the residents, the town received a bit of a wake- up call as government scrambled to get things back on track. Once the extent of the problem had become apparent, it quickly became evident that some of the local business owners themselves were at the core of the scandal. In an effort to avoid paying electricity charges, many of the businesses situated in the city had taken advantage of the municipality’s lack of control and had illegally tapped in the town’s electricity supply, costing the municipality millions. The government has retaliated and has clamped down on illegal connections and is in the process of sorting out the financial mess.Home to some of the finest examples of colonial architecture, the city has a lengthy history and was a founded by the Voortrekkers and was, for a short time at least, the capital of the Boer Republic before being taken over by the British. The city has enjoyed a turbulent history and is well known as the place where Gandhi was famously forced to relinquish his first class seat and was thrown off a train while travelling to Pretoria. The area is synonymous with good schools and a number of highly-regarded learning institutions educate children from all over the country. Maritzburg College, a well-known boy’s school, has established itself as one of the top schools in South Africa. Established in 1863, by a certain Mr RD Clark, it is the oldest school in KZN.St Anne’s Diocesan College is a private girls’ school situated in nearby Hilton, Founded in 1877, this small school houses approximately 410 pupils from both South Africa and overseas countries.The city houses a large number of suburbs offering residents a broad spectrum of properties. Residential sales in Hayfields, a middle-class area have, according to Lightstone statistics remained pretty strong considering the current economic environment. The suburb recorded 52 freehold sales over the past year. The average price paid for a property in this area hovered around the R900 000 mark.The more upmarket area of Wembley has seen 35 properties changing hands over the past 12 months. This tree lined leafy older section of the city, features some of Pietermaritzburg finest homes. This is reflected in the prices achieved and Lightstone figures indicate that the average price paid for a home is R1.379m. Freehold sales dominated market last year and 35 sales were recorded. Residents vary in age, although the statistics indicate that 38% of the population are aged in the 50 to 64 year age category. Retired owners make up 17.65% while the 18 to 35 year group represent 8.76% of current property owners.
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