National 28.7.2016 02:59 pm

‘Demolish that Gupta mansion!’

Outside the Gupta Family compound, 11 April 2016, in Saxonwold, Johannesburg. Picture: Alaister Russell

Outside the Gupta Family compound, 11 April 2016, in Saxonwold, Johannesburg. Picture: Alaister Russell

Angry Saxonwold neighbours have asked the City of Joburg to rule that the empty compound where many deals went down be razed to the ground.

A journalist from The Star reported that a team of officials visited the Gupta mansion in Saxonwold on Wednesday to investigate a raging battle between the family’s representatives and the Guptas’ Saxonwold neighbours.

Residents claim the mansion is “illegally built” and devalues the up-market Joburg suburb.

City of Joburg officials went to investigate the property for themselves, because residents now want the property demolished, since they claim it is in contravention of city planning regulations.

The paper reported that the residents were represented by urban planner Craig Pretorius for the Saxonwold and Parkwood Residents’ Association. The Gupta family had a lawyer present.

Under investigation was whether proper permission had ever been sought or given for numerous alteration to the sprawling property on the Gupta estate. Neighbours allegedly feel that the four-storey Gupta home invades their privacy, as anyone in the Gupta mansion can apparently easily see the goings-on of their neighbours from numerous bedroom balconies.

The residents’ committee reportedly said that only three stories should have been the maximum height allowed. To counter this, however, the Guptas’ lawyer is said to have called the fourth storey “a rooftop”.

Accusations levelled against the Gupta family’s house in 2013 were that they had violated height restrictions, the number of dwelling units per site and contravened the Architects Act.

The property as seen from space: Picture: Google Earth

The property as seen from space: Picture: Google Maps

Other complaints about the property included that it featured no greenery, being completely paved, and was poorly built and “falling apart”.

The Star‘s journalist, Karishma Dipa, reported that inside the “palatial home, a large door leads to a foyer with an elevator and a spiral staircase, with various rooms filled with luxury furniture, granite tabletops, fully stocked bars and marble tiles”.

There were also apparently “several kitchens”, but oddly enough, no garages.

The mansion used to be regularly visited by government officials, including various ministers and even President Jacob Zuma; at one point the Guptas even wanted their own helipad, which their neighbours also protested against.

The application to get rid of the mansion has been brewing for some time.

According to the Rosebank Killarney Gazette, Ward 117 councillor Tim Truluck said in February that, despite the community backlash, the Gupta mansion controversy was not uncommon in the ward.

“There was nothing particularly underhand about the appeal and this sort of thing often happens in the ward, so it’s not really such an outrageous issue. I don’t see that it will be refused by City council at the current stage.

“The residents who are opposed to the appeal have every right to object. If they do, a tribunal will be formed where both the appeal and the objections thereto will be heard. I am aware of only three past cases where council demanded for structures which have already been built to be demolished, the rest were all approved.”

According to the Saturday Star, Joburg’s planning committee rejected the Guptas’ application to legalise home extensions on their property more than three years ago. The family later applied to rezone their residence from ‘Residential 1, subject to conditions’ to ‘Residential 1, subject to further conditions’.

A hearing will reportedly now give its verdict on the matter soon.

The Gupta family has struggled to do business in South Africa since the various local banks their companies were using to trade told them that they no longer wanted them as customers. The Reserve Bank was reportedly investigating the Guptas’ money trail in June and demanding that the Indian bank Bank of Garoda release documents to it relating to Gupta bank accounts. This was reportedly because the transactions were worrying because they suggested that money was being moved offshore illegally, most likely to Dubai, according to the Sunday Times.

The Guptas left the country in April, with City Press reporting that two of the brothers flew from Lanseria in their luxurious private jet with “a mountain of suitcases, five assistants and one wife” to Dubai.

“At 11pm that night, and with a mountain of luggage loaded on to the business jet ZS-OAK, the brothers, together with one of their wives and five of their assistants, left Lanseria Airport – likely for good.

“An eyewitness at the airport said they had enough luggage for 20 people,” City Press reported.

The Guptas now have an up-market mansion in Dubai, where they have also set up front companies in offices with no furniture and staff, also according to City Press.

Several politicians, most notably EFF leader Julius Malema, have alleged that the family moved billions of rands out of the country Dubai, with the direct help of President Zuma.

 

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