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Storm over digs puts Tshwane University of Technology in court battle

Khayalethu student residence and the bottle store are in the centre of Tshwane University of Technology decision to cancel accommodation deal in eMalahleni.
Khayalethu student residence and the bottle store are in the centre of Tshwane University of Technology decision to cancel accommodation deal in eMalahleni.

A company that provides student accommodation is fighting the Tshwane University of Technology in court over a contract that was cancelled last year because its residential units are situated next to a taxi rank and a bottle store.

This is according to court papers filed in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, where the university is opposing the court action by Southern Storm Properties, which owns the Khayalethu student accommodation in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga.

Southern Storm Properties wants the court to declare TUT's contract with its new service providers invalid.

TUT Enterprise Holdings CEO Nicholas Motsatse told Sowetan that the residence's proximity to a bottle store and a taxi rank "significantly reduces the security and safety of students".

"There have been incidences of students being mugged or harassed emanating from the proximity to these businesses. It becomes increasingly difficult to justify this location when there are alternatives," Motsatse said.

He said TUT had signed the contract with Southern Storm because they had no other accommodation alternatives at the time.

"At that stage there were no alternatives in eMalahleni to accommodate students. The lease with Southern Storm precedes the introduction of accredited accommodation as an alternative to leased accommodation," he said.

When Sowetan visited eMalahleni, students had mixed views on the matter.

Khayalethu is situated in the central business district of eMalahleni and it is surrounded by two ranks for long-distance and local taxis.

Kgetja Makgoba, 24, a third- year student, said Khayalethu provided a perfect environment for students.

"It's unfair for TUT to tell us where to stay. This place is suitable for poor black students as everything is cheap around here. I can even buy a plate of food for R5," he said.

Eunicia Ndo, 20, a second- year student said she moved out of Khayalethu last year.

"I didn't like that we were near the taxi rank, that put our lives at risk," Ndo said.

In an affidavit, Arno Schipper the sole director of Southern Storm said the effect of a lease agreement with Corridor Hill was to push other service providers out of the market.

He said Southern Storm was denied an opportunity to bid or make out a case for the awarding of a lease in its favour.

"The Corridor Hill lease should be declared invalid and TUT [should] initiate a new tender process for the award on an agreement for the letting of student accommodation at the eMalahleni campus which complies with TUT's procurement policy," Schipper said.

A date for oral arguments has not been set.

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