Saxonwold Residents vs the Guptas

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

The Gupta family have had it rough over the last couple of months. First there was the Waterkloof Airforce base incident - when a fully laden commercial airliner chartered by the family to ferry overseas guests to a family wedding at Sun City landed at the supposedly secure military facility. If that wasn't bad enough, it has since been revealed that not only were the guests welcomed at the airforce base with drinks and snacks, they were also escorted to Sun City courtesy of a blue light brigade. Reports from the SA National Roads Agency and the South African Police Services have showed that this in itself was a gross violation of the Road Traffic Act.

Just when things had calmed down, it came to light that one of the families palatial homes in Saxonwold had been valued by the local municipality at a paltry R490 000 in the latest municipal valuation roll. Not only was this less expensive than when the family bought the property in 1994, the Saxonwold Drive property had been valued at over R16-million in previous valuations. The public outcry was dramatically gaining momentum and many took to the internet news sites to air their grievances. While it often appears that the family is untouchable, there has been a little good news - the council itself has objected to the valuation, which will hopefully see the family paying what it rightfully owes.

The latest scandal to hit the family is also linked to the Saxonwold property. A recent report in the Saturday Star has highlighted just how unhappy some of the family's neighbours are over the building of what has been termed 'ugly' by those concerned.

The situation appears to be strangely reminiscent of a recent case in the Eastern Cape, where a tax professor was ordered to demolish his 'illegal' R8-million home. In both cases, although plans were submitted, the owners deviated from the original plans and added extensions that were not only not reflected or approved, but according to one resident, the Gupta property measures 170m more than is allowed in terms of Johannesburg's Town Planning scheme.

According to the Saturday Star, the aggrieved residents are taking their fight to the council's town planning hearing this week - where the Gupta's have applied to rectify the 'illegal' alterations to the mansion.

It makes you wonder why some people, and we are not only talking about the Gupta's here, always have to push the boundaries? What is the point of submitting plans, getting them approved and then going ahead and doing what you like regardless. There are very good reasons that properties are zoned for a particular purpose or that certain restrictions apply. Neighbours have every right to complain when these limitations are abused by fellow residents, because in many cases, the building could end up affecting the values of neighbouring homes.

The calls to have the Gupta' extensive 'extensions' torn down are becoming louder. A few months ago, this would have appeared to be impossible, given the overall value of the home. However the Supreme Court of Appeals decision to allow a property to be demolished on the grounds that the owner deviated from the original plan has opened up a whole new can of worms. Municipalities have been given the green light to take drastic action against those who flout the law...and although it is still early days in the latest Gupta saga, it will be interesting to watch what happens from this point on.

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