Durban - Woodglaze Trading, the company that was owned by now deceased controversial businessman Jay Singh has been fined R7.5 million in the Durban Regional Court.
This after it pleaded guilty to contravention of the National Environmental Management Waste Act, contravention of the National Water Act and two counts of contravention of the National Environmental Management Act, the National Prosecuting Authority said on Tuesday.
Woodglaze was represented by Pravashkumar Inderjeeth while the State case was led by Senior State Advocate Yuri Gangai.
According to the NPA, in 2012, Wood Glaze bought land in Phoenix from eThekwini Municipality, namely Erf 1086 and Erf 1661.
They envisaged using the land to build low-cost houses for disadvantaged and impoverished communities.
However, there was a wetland on the property and the company filled in gravel and building rubble to build platforms on which the houses were to be built.
This infilling caused parts of the wetland to erode, thus affecting the wetland and its buffer area.
In the plea, Woodglaze conceded that they did not obtain permission from the Department of Environmental Affairs prior to infilling or depositing material into the watercourse/wetland; they negligently committed an act that has caused significant pollution and degeneration of the environment and disposing of waste negligently into the wetland/watercourse on the property.
The company was fined R1 875 000 per count, of which R1 250 000 per count is suspended for five years.
Also, the company has to appoint a multidisciplinary specialised team to effectively rehabilitate the wetland.
This team must be set up within 60 days of the court order.
The effective fine of R2.5 million must be settled with R500 000 paid within 10 days of the court order and the remaining R2 million must be paid in 20 consecutive instalments of R200 000 on or before the end of each month.
The first instalment is due on 30 April 2021.
The Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, Advocate Elaine Zungu, welcomed the conviction and sentence. “Preservation of the environment is vital and a national focus. The land was bought for a good purpose. However, when undertaking the project, there were contraventions of the National Environmental Management Act, and such contraventions cannot be disregarded. Where there are contraventions to legislation related to the environment, the NPA will ensure that we properly guide investigations to enable successful prosecutions. The prosecution team and other government stakeholders are commended for the work conducted in this matter.”
Woodglaze was previously known as Gralio Precast and Palm Civils.
The companies have been in the spotlight for more than a decade for being awarded multimillion-rand housing contracts from the city.
Woodglaze was given a R1.4 million fine by the National Home Builders’ Registration Council in 2014 for failing to comply with building requirements at a 96-unit housing project in Newlands West.
In June 2014, a commission of inquiry suggested that Gralio, the company that built the ill-fated Tongaat Mall outside Durban, had not operated in good faith.
Two people were killed and 29 injured when part of the mall collapsed while under construction.
Also that year, four housing complexes Woodglaze Trading built were removed from Singh’s control for failing to properly administer the “rent-to-buy scheme”.