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City monitoring Open Mosque

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A City of Cape Town official says authorities cannot take legal action against the founders of the Open Mosque until they have the necessary evidence of the unauthorised use of the building at 4 Lester Street in Wynberg. This comes after a written query by Al Jama-ah party leader in the city council, Ganief Hendricks, who questioned the zoning of the mosque and renovations being conducted at the site.

“Without wanting to prescribe to officials what to do I feel that the premises should be visited and the inspector given a view if the standard safety requirements are in place and adequate parking facilities are available. In this way we can be assured that at least there will be no loss of life in the event of a tragedy.  Further that the owners be advised that if they use the premises as a mosque they will be breaking the law. The owners’ blatant disregard if they go ahead and open the mosque will then be taken into account if their application is considered,” Hendricks wrote.

In a written reply, the City’s Southern District manager Ossie Gonsalves confirmed that the only work that has been undertaken to the building is the ‘screeding’ of the floors for the laying of floor tiles, which does not require a building plan. When VOC News visited the premises this week, it found the floor was still bare, showing the concrete floor of the former factory that had occupied the space before.

The property is currently zoned for Mixed Use and permits the use of a place of worship. But he says there must be a provision for disabled parking bays and toilet facilities as well as addressing Fire and Building Regulations and other health and safety requirements. Gonsalves says they will take the necessary action if the building or zoning rights are contravened.

The property is zoned for Mixed Use (MU2) and permits the use of a mosque or place of worship. Gonsalves said the change of use will however require plans to be submitted and approved before it can be used as such.

The plans would need to address issues such as parking, where the property falls in a PT2 area, which requires that a Place of Worship provides 1 parking bay per 10 seats or persons, calculated at 1,4m2 floor space per person.

“Further requirements would be for the provision of disabled parking bays and toilet facilities as well as addressing fire and building regulations and other health and safety requirements,” he said.

Gonsalves said officials within the Enforcement Section have been alerted to the potential unauthorised use that is being planned and “will take the necessary action” if the building or zoning rights are contravened.

He added that they could only issue a warning but cannot serve a notice until there is the actual unauthorised use of a building taking place.

“The advertising of a future event can’t enable the issuing of a notice,” he said, referring to the newspaper advertisement promoting the Open Mosque.

Councillor Cheryl Walker had on Thursday also communicated this to Hendricks.

“Whilst we are aware that there has been indications that there is going to be a mosque opening on the property on Friday, 19 September, we can only act against it if and when it happens. At that time we will then investigate what contraventions there are, if any. Until such time there has been no breaking of the law.”

Hendricks also criticised the lack of public participation on the matter, adding that the community were largely objecting to the place of worship.

“As the community is up in arms about the opening of this mosque a public participation process which you normally follow is critical. This is a better option than marching to the mosque in protest or burning it down as has been threatened.” VOC



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