'It's ridiculous': war over washing machine churns on

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'It's ridiculous': war over washing machine churns on

The spat is now at the community ombud, but blind Joburg man says body corporate is combative as ever

Journalist

An attempt to end a two-year spat over a washing machine is nowhere near over after the parties failed to reach a resolution through arbitration by the community ombudsman. 
For two years, blind resident Melusi Ncala has kept his washing machine in a small area outside his Allens Nek, Roodepoort townhouse flat.
He maintains the estate agent told him the small 1. 5m-square area outside his back door was his property.
But the Park Avenue body corporate has dug in its heels and says the space belongs to everyone and cannot be used for Ncala’s machine. The body corporate is insisting he move the appliance inside.
The body corporate says he is breaching the Park Avenue complex rules, which he signed. But he maintains none of the documents in which this argument is made are in Braille, or in a format that would allow his computer to read it to him.Last year, a body corporate representative removed the corrugated plastic roof he had placed over his washing machine, and the security gate he had used to protect it.
The case first went to SA Human Rights Commission this year, but a solution was not reached and the body corporate asked that it instead go to the Community Schemes Ombud Service.
The commission could not make a binding ruling, said Ncala’s lawyer, Sally Rogers-Buitendag.
On Thursday, Ncala presented his case to the community ombudsman in Johannesburg. His lawyer was not allowed to be present because it is a conciliation process to find a solution that is not combative.
The body corporate’s lawyer was also not allowed to attend.Ncala says he sensed the process on Thursday was “combative”.
“I am blind. I have an instinct.”
He said of the experience: “The arguments were just based on inaccuracies and it is a stubborn group of individuals who were willing to just go through the motions and downplay my grievance, essentially.
“I got the sense they think if it takes enough time, I will just give up the battle.
“I also said I will not remove the machine. I can’t do that. It will be a risk  to me.”
Ncala claims it is unsafe to have a washing machine in his kitchen on a slippery tiled floor because if it leaks he will not be able to see the water on the floor.
Asked about the fact that their battle has gone on for two years, he said: “It is becoming more ridiculous just by the day.”The matter will now move to adjudication where lawyers for both sides will argue in front of an adjudicator, like a judge. It is likely to be heard in about six weeks.
Sally Rogers-Buitendag said: “The ombudsman’s ruling will be binding on Ncala and the body corporate.”
The body corporate has accused him of using his “alleged disability” to break the rules in legal documents submitted to  the human rights commission.
Ncala said: “If they can’t acknowledge my basic rights, for them to take it this far, what is the chance of an amicable, workable solution?”
The body corporate has declined to comment on the latest development.
The West Rand Management Agency said: “The dispute between an owner in the Park Ave Sectional Title Scheme and its Body Corporate is currently sub judice at the Community Schemes Ombud Service and therefore, as mentioned previously, not open to discussion.”

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