eThekwini Municipality has defended its move to issue eviction notices to several tenants at Virginia Airport north of Durban this week.
The municipality previously announced major plans to sell or lease and redevelop the R365-million airport site when it called for public participation regarding the decision in December 2020. Airport tenants expressed their shock at the publication of the notice which took them by surprise at the time.
Several airport tenants received eviction notices on Monday, stating that the city needed the property. However, eThekwini Municipality has confirmed that all tenants will eventually receive eviction letters.
“The municipality now needs its property. Our instructions are to give you notice to vacate the municipality property on or before February 28,” the letters read.
They are signed by the municipality’s head of legal services and warn that legal action will be taken if a tenant remains in occupation of the property after the specified date.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela, told Freight News that the tenants’ leases had already expired and the city planned to invite proposals from developers for the redevelopment of the airport site.
“All the leases at Virginia have expired and are currently on a month-to-month basis. In March 2020, the municipality did make offers for short leases for tenants that were not in arrears; only one accepted the new rental offer based on market value, four objected and five did not respond,” Mayisela said.
“We have not issued all the tenants with eviction notices, however all the tenants that are in arrears will be issued with eviction notices.”
He said that the municipality was however still open to negotiating short-term lease agreements with tenants who were not in arrears, but warned them to be prepared to pay market-related rental as required by the MFMA (Municipal Finance Management Act) and its regulations.
The city plans to invite proposals from potential developers to redevelop the site.
Freight News contacted several tenants at the airport site, however, they declined to comment on the matter.
The airport property measures 29.6 hectares and currently includes a 925-metre runway, a terminal building with 40 offices, a control tower, a restaurant/bar, a fire station, squash court, swimming pool and 16 hangars, as well as administrative buildings.
The municipality’s 2020 public notice regarding the development said that a 2018/19 study had favoured the issuing of a long-term lease agreement for “a mixed-use development which complements the unique tourism, hospitality, sports, entertainment node” along the M4 corridor. The study envisaged that the mixed-use node would consider development elements including a luxurious precinct with residential units and supporting retail, tourism accommodation and leisure activities.