City shuts down mall

Signage on the window of one of the businesses at China Mall tells residents of the closure.

Business owners in a shopping centre in Wynberg are having a tough time this festive season after it was closed for flouting fire and safety regulations.

Several businesses at the China Mall in Main Road, Wynberg, have been unable to trade because the City of Cape Town has closed the usually bustling building after safety and building inspectors conducting inspections at the China Mall in October, found that national building restrictions had been transgressed.

JP Smith, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said inspections were carried out on Tuesday October 4 and Thursday October 13.

“Unauthorised construction had taken place without the necessary plans and they also found that fire panels and smoke detectors were not working. In addition, fire extinguishers had not been serviced as required, or were absent altogether,” said Mr Smith.

As a result, the officials issued a summary abatement notice in terms of the Community Fire Safety By-law, he added.

Business owner Faeez Ismail, who runs Kismet Spices, moved out of the building and into a neighbouring building after he was out of business for a week in October.

“We were not able to run our businesses, not able to make money, not able to pay the people we employ. This has put us in an extremely difficult position as business owners,” said Mr Ismail.

“Luckily I was able to secure a place close to where I used to trade and I was able to keep my employees. Other businesses are not so fortunate,” he said.

Mr Ismail said after several attempts to try and get clarification about the state of the building and even after trying to make the premises fire compliant by buying their own fire extinguishers, the owner and lessor of the property, Ismail Bemat, has still not made much attempts to make the building compliant with the national building safety regulations.

“That’s why I decided to move because my business would have suffered even more if I didn’t,”said Ms Ismail.

Notando Ntini, an employee at a clothing store in the building, said the shutdown has put them in a bad state. “We started operating at the building in July, for about two months and the building closed down. Our salaries are at stake; we only come in two days out of the week and this is the prime time for us to be making money but instead we are forced to trade illegally and this chases away customers. We’re not making money,” said Ms Ntini.

The clothing store has been operating from the building illegally but the City’s fire compliance officers visit the building twice a day to stop businesses from operating.

Mr Smith said it is up to the owner of the building to take the necessary corrective measures to comply with safety regulations.

Further contraventions of the summary abatement notice issued will be dealt with in terms of the Community Fire Safety By-law, said Mr Smith.

This means that any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any order made in terms of the by-law is guilty of an offence and liable to a maximum fine or imprisonment as prescribed in the Fire Brigade Services Act.

The tenants as well as Southern Mail have been trying to get in contact with Mrl Bemat for the past three weeks but attempts to reach him via telephone and email have been unsuccessful.

Mr Smith said there is no deadline for the corrective safety measures to be implemented. “The building is off limits until such time as the measures have been implemented to the satisfaction of both fire safety and building inspectors,” said Mr Smith.