Still nowhere to go

The second and third floors at the Athlone Stadium were rented out to non-government organisations and businesses.

Most of the businesses, as well as the music school based at Athlone Stadium, have not found alternative premises, even though the City of Cape Town sent out a notice that they need to vacate the premises by Wednesday June 19.

The City announced last month that the stadium would be temporarily closed from Wednesday May 15 to Thursday August 15, for its annual pitch maintenance, and to make alterations to retain its grading certificate, in terms of the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act (SASREA).

However, the tenants say they have been given mixed messages since they first received notice to vacate the premises in November last year. For this reason, many of them had not yet found any alternative premises.

Of all the tenants, the Cape Music Institute is the only one with a lease agreement, which comes to an end in 2024.

Bradley Adams, the principal of the Cape Music Institute, said they received a letter on November 30 last year, asking them to vacate the premises by Thursday January 31, because of safety compliance issues.

“As a music school, it is not easy for us to find alternative premises. There are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled. They offered us a place in Mfuleni, but that is too far out for our students.

“We have 74 students from the southern and northern suburbs, as well as those coming from as far as Bredasdorp, Tulbach, Swellendam, Limpopo, and Cape Agulhas, among others.

“Many of those who come from far, live with families near the Athlone Stadium.

“We enquired about rentals, but some places want as much as R100000 for rent a month, and we cannot afford that. We are not running this institution to make money.

“In fact, many of our students come with social challenges. Some don’t even have a decent meal to eat. We just want the City to do more,” Mr Adams said.

Farouk Meyer, owner of Itheko Events Management, said the businesses occupied the corporate suites which were not being used.

“The suites were unoccupied since they built the stadium, and I was approached by a former City director to move in. The place was vandalised and I had to clean it up myself,” Mr Meyer said.

He moved his business there in 2015, and was initially on a month-to-month lease agreement. The businesses were then given a lease from July 2016 to September 2017. They were then given rental agreements. It was only in March last year, that they were again approached by the City to apply for leases. They also paid for the lease application, Mr Meyer said, but this process was never concluded.

In June last year they received notification that their rent would increase by 400%, Mr Meyer
added.

“When we moved in here, nobody else wanted to be here. The place was vandalised. We objected to the rental increase. Then, in December, we were told we need to be out, as the stadium is not SASREA compliant. Later, we were told it does not affect us on the third floor, as our floor was complaint.

“Then a City representative, James Vos, told us nobody on our floor needs to move out while renovations will be happening. One week before the national and provincial elections, mayor Dan Plato met with us as well. The City gave us notice to vacate, then they gave us hope, and then they gave us notice again.

“We got our hopes up and stopped looking for other premises. Then, late in May, the City’s director for economic opportunities and asset management, Kelcy le Keur, said it is not negotiable, we need to be out. There were lots of confusion and I have not found other premises yet,” Mr Meyer said.

Brendon Lottering, owner of Cotton and Stitch, said there were many families depending on his business.

“This is my lifeline and they are being unfair. I was told by the stadium manager that come June 19, the place will be locked up.

“Initially, we were told we will not be affected on the third floor. Every time it was a different story. I am in the process of moving, but I would have preferred to stay at the stadium,” Mr Lottering said.

He confirmed Mr Meyer’s explanation about how things unfolded.

In a statement, Ms Le Keur said the stadium was currently non-compliant with the National Building Regulations (NBR) and the SASREA, and was operating under a conditional certificate, which would expire on Saturday June 15.

“Under the conditional certificate, only certain parts of the stadium can be used for events thereby reducing the number of attendees for larger events.

“Should the City fail to comply with the required legislation, it is at risk of losing its grading certificate, which will lead to the ultimate shut-down of the facility in June. The requirements of the SASREA is to provide for measures to safeguard the physical well-being of persons and property at sports and recreational events, or similar events held at stadia, nationally.

“The SASREA requirements stipulate compliance with a number of certificates such as an electrical compliance certificate, fire and safety certificate, occupational health and safety certificate, a full set of stadium design layouts and approved building plans, among other requirements,” Ms Le Keur said.

She added that after consultation, the City had granted a final extension of one month only until Wednesday June 19 for the occupants to evacuate.

“While the City regrets the inconvenience to the commercial users, the Cape Music Institute and SAFA Cape Town, our priority is to ensure that the venue is compliant, safe and available for use by both the sporting and the events fraternity. This is not negotiable,” she said.

The Athlone News emailed the City questions about the future of these corporate suites, and whether this was the first time the SASREA Act had been implemented at the stadium. By the time this edition went to print, the City had not responded.