The City has been given the go-ahead to demolish the China Emporium Building.
ETHEKWINI Municipality was given the green light to proceed with the demolition of the firedamaged China Emporium building. This follows a protracted legal battle with the building owners, Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd with the intent to recover the financial costs from the building owner in accordance with the court order for the building to be demolished.
Situated in the western side of the Durban Central Business District, the building suffered extensive damage in a fire incident in January 2022. A structural engineer’s report, received shortly after the blaze, recommended the complete demolition of the structure due to public safety concerns and its deteriorating appearance. Numerous attempts to engage with the building owners to initiate the demolition process proved fruitless. The current state of the building has led to several significant challenges, including illegal dumping, unsanitary conditions resulting from unauthorised public use, the looming risk of structural collapse, traffic congestion, adverse effects on local businesses due to extended road closures, and a tarnished reputation for the Municipality.
Given the building owners’ lack of action, the Municipality sought a court order, which was granted on 22 September 2022. The court’s ruling stipulated that the owners must commence with the demolition of the building to its ground floor within six months of the order and complete the process within 14 weeks. They were also mandated to remove all debris to prevent potential hazards. In the event that the building owners failed to act, the Municipality or its designated service provider would have the authority to carry out the demolition as specified.
EThekwini Mayor Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda emphasised the Municipality’s commitment to public safety stating: “The City has a responsibility to its residents. This building is a disaster waiting to happen and will result in the loss of lives.” The court order places the onus on Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd to cover all expenses related to the demolition and subsequent clean-up. In a proactive move aimed at bolstering public safety and creating new investment opportunities, Council approved expediting the demolition of the firedamaged structure at a Full Council meeting held on 28 September 2023.
The Municipality will bear the costs associated with the demolition, debris removal, and site securing, with an estimated budget allocation of R28.9 million inclusive of VAT. As per the court’s mandate, Zoloscore Investments (Pty) Ltd will be responsible for covering all costs incurred by the Municipality during the demolition and clean-up process.