Motor museum in gridlock

Thulani Gqirana

A MUSEUM curator who was told to vacate a Port Elizabeth tourist attraction is refusing to leave because he has invested his time and money into the building which he has rented for more than 10 years.

Eben de Vos, who owns the St Croix Motor Museum in Newton Park, received a notice from the Public Works Department last month telling him his lease had been terminated. He was ordered to vacate the premises by no later than March 31 – but was still there yesterday, three days after the deadline.

“At this stage I have no plans to vacate the museum or the premises,” a defiant De Vos said.

The museum is home to vintage and classic cars dating back to 1901.

De Vos, a former city councillor, said the department was using a Wendy house he built at the back of the building as an excuse to kick him out.

“I built the structure with my own money five years ago and an old couple lives there. Officials are only telling me now that it is illegal.”

In the notice, De Vos is accused of breaching Clause 11 of the lease agreement signed in 2003 by:

ýSub-letting parking space on the property for R125 a month;

ýSub-letting the premises to Old Cars Africa; and

ýAllowing some employees to erect and occupy a temporary structure on the property.

The 65-year-old businessman said closure of the motor museum would be short-sighted. The community was being deprived of an important part of its heritage as Port Elizabeth was the town where the country’s motor industry began, he said.

“The city has already lost so many tourist attractions. There is nothing here. We have lost the dolphins and the Apple Express. The motor museum should be given a reprieve.”

De Vos said he was awaiting further developments.

He said if the museum were to close, Port Elizabeth would lose the collection of vintage cars which were on show there. “Some would have to be sold and the rest would be separated and stored in different garages. That would be a tragedy.”

In its documentation to De Vos and his lawyers, the Department of Public Works said he was not given permission or written approval to erect the temporary structure on the premises.

“As a result of your client’s breach, and its failure, despite demand in terms of Clause 14, to remedy the breach, the department has the right to, and hereby terminates the lease agreement with immediate effect.

“Your client will be requested to vacate the premises by no later than March 31 2013.”

Attempts to get comment from the department yesterday were unsuccessful.

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