A BUFFALO City Metro council debate on whether a B&B owner should be left to operate his business or not reached boiling point on Wednesday with racial allegations being slung about.
The heated debate – which had Speaker Luleka Simon calling councillors to order on numerous occasions – comes after the B&B owner built a double storey building in his yard that was not on the approved plan.
The building in question is Beachway Lodge and Conference Centre in Nahoon’s Beach Road.
It is owned by Lebo and Bandlakazi Nkonki.
The city won a court order in 2009 interdicting the Nkonkis from running the guesthouse without a licence . In 2011 another order was granted interdicting them from having the residential address rezoned to have a conference centre.
The Nkonkis ignored both orders and continued to operate illegally. On October 30, the East London High Court gave the Nkonkis a month to close or face arrest.
The council debate about the B&B led to an intense exchange between the ruling ANC and opposition councillors.
Councillors bandied around allegations of racism and in the end the matter was decided by a vote.
The B&B owner had made an application to the city for a permanent departure from the requirements of the metro’s zoning scheme, to permit the relaxation of the lateral building line restriction from 2m to 0m adjacent to the neighbouring building.
The majority voted against a recommendation by BCM that the application be rejected, with some saying the recommendation was meant to frustrate black business people in the metro.
A letter of objection was lodged to the city by the B&B’s neighbour, while later a report, presented to the planning and economic development mayoral committee by metro administration, recommended that the application be rejected.
After lengthy arguments between councillors, agitated ANC councillors decided to ignore the recommendation, and instead the majority voted for the application to be approved, paving the way for the business to continue operating.
“I don’t know why administration is saying this should not be approved. Is it because it’s a black person making this application?” the ANC’ s Zukisa Faku said.
“As the ANC we do not agree with this objection, which we view in a serious light as this constantly happens when applications are received from black people.
“For us this seems like a racial issue which needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand.”
Mthetheleli Sam agreed, saying there were a number of applications by blacks rejected outright while those from whites were treated with kid gloves.
DA spokesman on development and planning Rowan Thiele said the recommendation was correct as the owner had already illegally constructed extensions to the property without authorisation.
“When the DA pointed this out, the ANC turned the issue into a racial one, claiming that the only reason it was not supported was because the property owner was black, which is not the case. Nowhere in the report does it mention the race of the owner. This is about compliance with building regulations and property zoning.”
When things started to get out of hand, Simon ruled that the matter be taken to a vote and when it became clear that the ANC would condone the illegal extensions, the DA demanded a division, in which the individual votes of each councillor are recorded in the minutes.
“This indemnifies those who voted against the proposed relaxation and condonation from liability, in the event that the matter goes to court,” Thiele said.
At the end, 67 councillors voted to approve the application, 19 voted against and two abstained from voting. — email@example.com