Legal advice office relocation confusion

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

The Athlone District Advice Office apologised to the community for the confusion created when it had to cancel a planned move to Hazendal.

The advice office has been offering free legal advice to the greater Athlone community for 24 years now, and for many of these years, it was based in Athlone’s central business district (CBD).

However, because the organisation had no funds, their landlord, who allowed them to stay in his building for an extended period of time without paying rent, was eventually forced to ask them to move from the premises, as he needed the income.

In May 2014, the advice office had to pack up in Athlone, but not long after that, in August 2014, they moved to the Ex-Servicemen’s Hall in Petunia Road, Silvertown, where they are still based.

Project director, Brian Alcock, said it seemed like all processes were in place, when they announced to the public that the new office would be opened on Saturday April 9, but then “something went amiss”, and two days before the scheduled opening, the office was informed that it could not go ahead with the move.

“It was with great excitement that we planned the opening of the new office. We were once again getting our own office space. Sadly we had to cancel the opening. We do, however, wish to humbly apologise to the community, guests and supporters who were inconvenienced.

“We can assure the community that we will continue to serve our people to the best of our ability. I want to thank everybody for their support,” Mr Alcock said.

The Hazendal property is a City of Cape Town-owned building, which is currently being leased to the Hazendal/Bokmakierie Civic Organisation (Hazcor).

Chairperson of Hazcor, Yusuf Abrahams, said a lease agreement could not be secured for the Athlone District Advice Office, as his executive members unintentionally did not follow the procedures needed by the City’s property management team. He added, however, that they will be in talks with the property management representatives and Ward 49 councillor, Suzette Little, to start the process afresh.

Ms Little explained that Hazcor represents 13 organisations in the community, which include the neighbourhood watch and a church – and these organisations are all making use of the facility.

“If the advice office would like to make use of the premises, they have to send in a proposal, and with that, include whether they’d like to make use of the whole building, or a portion of it, and when they’d like to use it and at what times. The neighbourhood watch has already asked if they could use it as a control centre and a range of other organisations are also using the building. There was no application made from the advice office, and no proposal. They’ll have to go through the process, but since there’s already a lease agreement in place, we’ll have to get guidance from property management,” Ms Little said.

Meanwhile, Mr Alcock added: “We are glad to announce that we have been given a special and private office at the Ex- Servicemen’s building, to continue with our free legal advice and assistance.”

Contact the Athlone District Advice Office at 083 747 5901.