Cape Town Liquidator Mohamed Patel (above), of Patel and Totos Attorneys, paid a visit to the hotel. He appointed Van Rensburgs Auctions to handle the sale. Ann Spies (right) was there during a brief inspection.
GEORGE NEWS - Huge question marks continue to hang over Mohamed Ismail Patel, the notorious liquidator of the Hawthorndene Hotel, the once stately establishment at the Northern entrance to George.
And answers may not be forthcoming for quite a while, as Patel is nowhere to be found.
The master of the Western Cape High Court informed Patel by letter on 7 November 2016, that he had been removed from all the estates where he had been appointed as liquidator, curator or trustee.
Following the George Herald's front page story last week, the Sunday Times this week also wrote about Patel's dual identities, his suspicious registration as lawyer and detailed his duplicity in handling transactions running into millions. The weekend paper was also unable to establish his whereabouts.
The George Herald reported last week that the Cape Law Society was in the process of removing Patel from their roll of registered attorneys. This week it was revealed how the George municipality helped to facilitate a possible sale of the derelict property on 10 October, but how Patel's inaction sank the deal. The municipality forwarded an offer to purchase from a "well known respected business and developer of the area" to Patel, never responded despite the municipality's best efforts.
In a report which was due to be discussed behind closed doors at yesterday's council meeting, head of finance, Moos Cupido says a sale by auction would not be conducive to settling the municipal arrears bill.
The report intimates that the would-be buyer whose offer the municipality had sent to Patel, is familiar with all the problems associated with the property and willing to go the complicated route of cancelling the sectional title schemes that govern the 32 units of the Hawthorndene Country Inn; subdivide the property to obtain development rights and to resolve intricate boundary issues.
Payment of electricity and water is in arrears to the amount of R1 849 000. The total municipal valuation of all the hotel is R2 604 000 - this includes the hotel, 32 self-catering units, parking and gardens.
At an auction in 2013, local hotelier Les Dyason, paid a deposit after he won the bid to purchase the Hawthorndene for R2,5 million.
According to Dyason, Patel then asked him to increase the purchase price to R4,3 million as the seller was committed to effect much needed repairs. He agreed and countersigned the agreement. Dyason says Patel then reneged on this deal saying the seller would only insure electricity on the premises.
Patel refused to return his deposit, accusing Dyason of breach of contract. "The agreement makes provision for arbitration. We are still waiting for that to take place. We deny that we are in breach of the contract and it is our intention to approach the public protector and constitutional court if necessary."
Dyason says he paid R500 000 deposit. At the time Patel would not provide the George Herald with a clear answer as to how Dyason's deposit would be invested. In the municipal report reference is made to a later offer by Dyason in December 2014 of R1,48 million for 13 units belonging to Natserve Developments, but this deal also failed to go through. An application to liquidate the company was brought in January 2015 which prevented the transfer of the property to Dyason. The company was finally liquidated in March 2015.
Yesterday (30 November), at the start of the George council meeting, South Africa Civics (Sac) leader, Basil Petrus, who supports Dyason's efforts to buy the hotel, asked speaker Iona Kritzinger to allow the Hawthorndene debacle to be discussed in an open council session as it is of public interest. Kritzinger assented, but when the George Herald went to press, the item on the agenda had not been up for debate.
Earlier in the week Petrus told the George Herald that the proposed sale of Hawthorndene is a public matter. "It is in the interest of this town that this issue is resolved and the property developed. George municipality must also provide alternative housing to the people who illegally live on the premises."
Petrus said the municipality's human settlements and land affairs/planning committee recently inspected the site.
Neighbours maintain the hotel is being used by criminals as a base.Petrus said, as the biggest creditor, council needs to step in and help to untangle the legal intricacies to bring things to a conclusion.
He said Dyason is a willing buyer and that the transaction that was not finalised by Patel should go ahead. The hotel was first placed under liquidation in 2007 and closed in 2010 when the municipal services were disconnected.