The Tshwane metro may face a R100-million lawsuit because of damages suffered by business owners around the Jean Avenue and Gerhard Street sinkhole in Centurion.
Businesses affected by the sinkhole started a class action against the metro last year and appeared in the Pretoria high court on Monday to apply for an order for the metro to swiftly repair the sinkhole.
The court ordered the Tshwane metro to commence repairs on Wednesday, 24 January and complete the project within six months.
The attorney representing the business owners, Jacques Classen, said the metro was to submit a report on steps to be taken to finalise the repair of the sinkhole, road and associated infrastructure.
“They (the metro) also need to submit the details of the contractor to the registrar of the court,” said Classen.
He said proper signage for pedestrians should also be displayed as the area was dangerous to both pedestrians and motorists.
“The Tshwane metro also need to submit proof of the budget allocated to the sinkhole to ensure that the budget is adequate.”
Classen said should the metro not comply with the order, it would be in contempt of court.
“The municipal manager in person can be held liable to a fine or three- to six-months’ imprisonment.”
Classen said the sinkhole has had a negative impact on revenue for nearby businesses, causing one of them to close its doors.
“One of the businesses alone suffered a loss of about R11 million in revenue.”
He said the businesses must be compensated for their losses, which could amount to tens of millions of rands.
“Experts must be appointed to determine the extent of negligence.”
Tshwane metro was, however, singing a different tune.
Mayoral spokesperson Sam Mgobozi said on Wednesday the court did not order the metro to repair the sinkhole; nor did it provide a time frame within which to carry out repairs.
He said the metro reached a settlement agreement whereby it would provide monthly progress reports to the registrar of the court.
“The anticipated time of completion, barring any outside influences, would be six months.”
Mgobozi said the metro would file a report to the court within 14 days, which will include the following:
– Steps taken to finalise the repairs;
– What steps were taken;
– The contractor appointed;
– Proof of compliance with municipal finance legislation in the appointment process of the contractor; and
– The steps taken to safeguard the intersection and protect the public from harm.
Mgobozi also said nothing prevented anyone from submitting a claim for damages caused by the sinkhole, and if and when such claims arise, the metro will investigate and take a position in due course.
“At this stage, we cannot comment further on potential claims that individuals and businesses might or might not bring against this municipality.”
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