Wednesday, 23 December 2020

BYO COUNCIL LEASING LAND TO SPORTING CLUBS FOR A SONG

BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) is leasing out its land to sporting clubs for a song with some club owners reportedly paying as little as $700 in local currency while illegally subletting the facilities and charging in foreign currency.

In February, BCC nearly terminated its lease agreement with Highlanders after the football club illegally sublet part of their clubhouse to house a braai centre.

The club leased out part of the clubhouse to Bulawayo socialite and broadcaster Babongile Sikhonjwa in 2018, which saw the establishment of Hlabangana Lounge braai facility a year later that was eventually closed after operating for five months following the intervention of the local authority.

According to a February council report, other sports clubs that are alleged to be sub-letting facilities include Queens Sports Club, Hartsfield Rugby Ground, Bulawayo Athletic Club (BAC) and Busters Sports Club.

The report stated that the Highlanders clubhouse is among a number of sports facilities owned by the local authority, which they considered terminating the leases as their clients were violating the terms of the agreements by engaging in unsanctioned activities.

“It was noted that council-leased sports clubs were engaging in unauthorised activities such as live shows and ‘tshisa nyama’ (braai spots) which caused nuisances for residents in the neighbourhoods of the facilities.

Residents complained of noise, disturbance of peace, rowdy behaviour and other nuisances,” read part of the council minutes.

“The view of the department was that council have a re-look at the lease agreements at an inter-departmental meeting led by housing and community services department to map a way forward with the view of either regularising some of the activities or cancellation of leases.

The sports clubs that have been noted to be having these unauthorised activities are Highlanders Sports Club, Queens Sports Club, Hartsfield Sports Club, BAC and Busters Sports Club.”

BCC director of housing and community services, Mr Dictor Khumalo on Monday said once they are aware that a clubhouse is being sublet without council authority, they would be forced to intervene.

“If there is a violation of lease agreement, we don’t necessarily rush to terminate it without first engaging the other party so that the issue is rectified. It is actually possible that it can happen without our knowledge and as council the moment we get to know, we intervene,” he said.

“Subletting is allowed, but you need to seek council authority in the first instance. The nature of activity should also be assessed by council so that it doesn’t cause any nuisance and disadvantage neighbours.”

Mr Khumalo, however, refused to disclose the money council charges for leasing out its land.

“The rentals are charged as per agreement between the two parties. I can’t disclose that information because there will be a binding agreement and confidentiality between two parties,” he said.

 

 

 

Mr Khumalo said the rentals are reviewed every year in line with the council’s annual budget.

“Every year council reviews charges in line with the budget. If there are any reviews, they are done from time to time.

The structures will be owned by the organisation that will be leasing, but the land belongs to the city council and that relationship is explained in that lease agreement including what happens at the fusion of time in terms of ownership of the buildings,” he said.

Bulawayo Deputy Mayor Councillor Mlandu Ncube said considering the situation that is being faced by the sporting facilities, they end up making special arrangements by sub-letting so that they can be able to run the clubs.

Highlanders have been leasing the clubhouse, which houses two sports bars, two training grounds, a basketball pitch for close to 40 years from the city council.

Established in 1894, Queens Sports Club, is home to the only Test cricket pitch in the city. Hartsfield, an international rugby venue is being leased out to the Bulawayo Metropolitan Rugby Football Board.

However, the rugby board is subletting part of the premises to 3D events which operates Hartsfield Tshisanyama, which has been a contentious issue over the years with council threatening to demolish the tent erected between the two pitches.

BAC and Busters both have multi-purpose sports facilities but have sublet part of their properties to nightclub owners — BAC Leisure and Smokehouse respectively.

According to the council report, almost all sports clubs had deviated from their original purpose and now sold beer and braai which was a problem to the city.

Council departments had agreed to address the situation as a team. They would visit the clubs as one team to effect the by-laws.

“Failure by the clubs to adhere to the by-laws would result in the cancellation of their lease agreements. Lawlessness was prevailing in the city mostly caused by illegal activities. Such behaviour compelled people not to comply with regulations,” reads the council report. Chronicle

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