Civil servant fined for illegal St Lucia building

A PRETORIA civil servant has been fined R15000 and ordered to demolish a house he built illegally in the St Lucia Wetland Park in Zululand.

A PRETORIA civil servant has been fined R15000 and ordered to demolish a house he built illegally in the St Lucia Wetland Park in Zululand.

The Pietermaritzburg regional court also ordered Jacobus Serfontein to restore the garden to its original pristine condition.

Serfontein was convicted yesterday of erecting the house on a world heritage site without authority; entering the site or living there without authority; and establishing a French drain and water sewerage system and gardening without approval. He had pleaded guilty.

He was fined R100000, of which R85000 was conditionally suspended, and sentenced to five years' imprisonment both conditionally suspended in totality.

The conditions include dismantling the house and removing it and any underground piping by May 15. Any rubble can be buried in a septic tank or beneath 60cm of soil.

Serfontein, who is a senior official in the public service and administration department, told the court he obtained approval from the Tembe Traditional Council and the Umhlabuyalingana municipality, but not from the St Lucia park management.

He acknowledged that this was a serious offence because the proliferation of illegal development in the park threatened the biological integrity of the natural sanctuary.

He acknowledged that failure by the park authority to strictly control the park would be a serious breach of South Africa's international treaty obligations and could lead to a deregistration of the park as a World Heritage site.

He told the court he had holidayed at the site for the past 11 years and had befriended the local people and helped their development.

He and his family had donated food, clothes and household items, stationery for the school and had helped people with funerals.

He still donated R250 a month to help 20 to 24 orphans and abandoned children.

The court found that his building did not negatively impact on the natural environment.

An ecologist testified that the grass would regrow and that he did not eradicate highly protected indigenous plants. - Sapa

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