The City has given a Lakeside church and a storage company until tomorrow to remove almost 100 shipping containers that it says are on the church’s premises illegally.
The church’s congregants protested in support of the containers on Sunday after the church had drawn flak from the community for leasing part of its property to the storage company.
The arrival of the containers at Riverview Church of Christ in December last year cast the spotlight on the decade-long battle between two factions for ownership of the church.
In December last year, residents quickly voiced their dissatisfaction as storage containers started arriving.
Ward 71 councillor Carolynne Franklin said residents had alerted her when clearing of the property had started at the end of November and she had alerted the building inspector.
The City served the church and Metric Storage, which is owned by Dealtry Pickford, with a non-compliance notice on December 18, giving them 30 days from the date it was served until tomorrow, Friday January 19, to cease business activity and to remove the containers.
Failure to comply can result in legal action, administrative penalties, a fine of up to R800 000 or a 20-year prison sentence.
Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews said the property was zoned for single residential use, which is suitable for a single dwelling with additional use rights that include a place of worship.
“The property cannot be used for a storage business, and the containers and structures are illegal.”
He said two further notices had been served on December 20: one to stop the placement of the containers and a Section 10 notice in terms of the National Building Regulations for putting up the unauthorised structures.
Mr Andrews said Metric Storage had submitted a land-use application for a temporary departure from the current zoning, but the application was incomplete and once a valid application had been submitted it would be subject to a public participation process.
Mr Pickford said he was not aware of the history of the church and had done his “due diligence” before signing a five-year lease.
He said legal documents provided by the church’s board of trustees had checked out at the Master’s and the Surveyor-General’s offices.
It was only after he had received a call from the “other party” that he had become aware of the issues within the faction, and by then, he said, Metric Storage had already signed the lease with the church trustees.
He said a town planning company had submitted a land-use application before he had moved the containers to the site.
The containers, he said, had to be moved as he had been given notice, and a potential property with the correct zoning, which he had intended to move to, had become unavailable.
He said he did not wish to get involved in the matter between the two parties of the church and was awaiting the outcome from the City and would be guided by their decision.
Mr Pickford said he had lived and worked in the area for almost 30 years and it was not his intention to upset the community.
He said he was landscaping the property and intended to plant 150 trees.
“Metric Storage is taking heat as a by-product of this dispute, and it saddens me that people attack us so vehemently without taking the time to find out what is going on,” he said.
However, Ms Franklin said the land-use application had been submitted on December 19, four days after the containers had been moved to the site on December 15.
In March 2022 the Echo reported that the man claiming to be the church’s current minister, Honore Makembe, had moved onto the property illegally and was in violation of a court order.
In a December 2018 court order, Judge Dennis Davis stated that Mr Makembe was in contempt of court for not adhering to a 2015 order made by Judge Nape Dolamo, which ordered that Mr Makembe may not present himself as an executive committee member or elder of the church, must contribute, pro-rata, to all church expenses such as rates and taxes and that Mr Makembe must attend church at separate times as arranged by the church (“Preacher accused of hijacking church,” Echo, March 10, 2022).
However, Mr Makembe denies the allegations and accused the Echo of being “one-sided.”
He claims the matter has since been resolved in court.
He said he had come to South Africa in 1999, received his permanent citizenship in 2006, and had been a member of the church since 2003.
His wife, Bijoux, who claims to be chairperson of the board of trustees of the church, said she had every right to lease a part of the church’s property to Metric Storage and said she was tired of “people writing bad things about her husband”.
The income from the storage facility was “helping the community,” Mr Makembe said.
Dereck Beukes, from the Bellville Church of Christ, who has been involved in the ongoing legal battles between the two factions from the start, said the church had applied for an urgent interdict to stop the containers, but due to the ongoing eviction case in the Western Cape High Court, the order could not be granted.
To date, Mr Beukes said, litigation had cost the church about R1.6 million and the case would continue in March.
Mr Makembe said he was not aware of a hearing in March.
Mark Hackney, from neighbouring Camargue Residential Complex, said Mr Pickford’s action had resulted in a gross violation of the rights of his immediate neighbours and surrounding residents.
“We are not accepting this. Overnight our neighbourhood has been transformed into an industrial park,” he said.
He said no environmental impact study had been done and the rights of residents and property owners from Camargue Residential Complex had been violated as they had not given their consent.
“Constant noise and dust from gravel beds and servitude roads laid on the property is now the norm, and the current use of this land is prejudicing the rights of the neighbouring property owners.”
He said caravans and industrial skips had been placed right up against the neighbouring boundary wall, which constituted not only a fire and health hazard but also a security risk.
“What is also of great concern is the proximity of these illegal containers to the water course. We have already noted illegal dumping taking place from this property into the waterway and we now face the risk of hazardous materials finding their way into the run-off and waterway,” he said.