ALLEGED fruitless and wasteful expenditure on a frivolous lawsuit by the Port Alfred Small Boat Harbour Company (SBHC) has been slammed by a consultant for the company.
Derek Victor, who was appointed along with two other people as consultants for the harbour in July last year, spoke out this week on issues that have been simmering in the small boat harbour for years.
The issues revolve around the use of land in the harbour, including disagreement over the validity of sub-leases and transfer of property from the municipality to private entities.
The developer of the harbour 25 years ago, and main leaseholder, Pamcor, and the SBHC which was later established to manage to harbour, have sued various companies belonging to Stuart Boucher, including Halyards Properties and the Royal Alfred Marina Club Hotel.
River Hotels, the current owners of the Halyards, later also joined the applicants in their case against Boucher.
Central to the case is erf 5203, a 2754m2 piece of land which was excised from other land in the harbour and which Boucher bought from the municipality for R100 000 in 1996.
Three years before that, Pamcor entered into a sub-lease of the entire remainder of the harbour with Boucher’s company, Halyards Properties, for 20 years with an option to renew for another 20 years – the same period as their initial lease for the small boat harbour. Boucher’s lease lasts until 2028.
When Boucher announced his desire to build 30-35 units of sectional title apartments on erf 5203, and his proposal was accepted by the municipality, Pamcor took the matter to court.
At issue is the clause in the title deed that the land should be used solely to build accommodation to supplement the existing accommodation capacity of the Halyards Hotel, “or other such buildings that may be approved by consensus after consultation (between Boucher and the municipality)”.
Victor, who provided TotT with documentation on the history of the matter, questioned why the SBHC’s money had been used to fund the lawsuit in which Pamcor is the primary applicant.
To date, R360 000 has been spent by the SBHC on legal costs, which represents more than 20% of the SBHC’s income over the past two years.
The SBHC’s income comes from mooring and jetty fees paid by users of the harbour.
Victor felt this was an abuse of funds for purposes other than maintaining and benefitting the harbour. When he was appointed as a consultant by the SBHC, he was mandated to make the harbour more viable. He has since resigned as a consultant.
“Even if Pamcor, the SBHC and River Group succeed with their case, there will be no tangible benefit for the harbour,” said Victor.
Victor also said he was given a mandate by SBHC directors Angus Schlemmer and Justin de Wet Steyn to negotiate a settlement with Boucher, but he was disappointed that the final settlement, “which was agreed to point by point over a period of months” was rejected by Pamcor and the SBHC.
Contacted for comment, Boucher said as sub-lease holder, he was in effect the principal of the SBHC and he was incredulous that “now you have an agent litigating against its principal, a servant against it master, a dog biting the hand that feeds it”.
He said he was considering firing the directors of the SBHC and replacing it with other managing agents.
“The principle of the SBHC is right, the people are wrong,” he said.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want things to be sorted out.”
De Wet Steyn and Schlemmer declined to comment, but their attorney Michael White said: “The proposed settlement that has been put forward was simply not acceptable on various grounds to the other side litigating parties.”
River Group chief executive Andre Roebert disputed that Victor was even tasked to negotiate a settlement with Boucher. “There’s no contract, there’s no paper trail,” he said.
He said aside from the fact Boucher’s proposed development would be in competition to the Halyards, the issue was about “one man trying to control the harbour”.
“We will fight this thing, that the land either goes back to the municipality or it’s never developed.”
“There’s some issue over the enforceability of the sub-lease,” said White. “As far as I know, the municipality never approved that sub-lease.”