Kirstenbosch land claim sparks concerns

Uncertainty about the development of 12 hectares next to Kirstenbosch Gardens that was handed over to 86 land restitution claimants in September has ruffled the feathers of residents in area.

There is confusion about what is being planned for the area, and residents say a low-cost development would push down the value of their multi-million-rand properties and disturb the natural vegetation.

The development issue will be on the agenda at the annual meeting of the Fernwood Residents Association on Thursday, said spokesperson Jacques Blignaut. He said residents should have been involved in all discussions in the restitution process and future development.

The Cape Argus has also learnt that Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and her husband have put a property right opposite the claimants land on the market. It has been for sale for about two months.

Sisulu's husband, Professor Rok Ajulu, confirmed that he owned the house but said the sale was unrelated to uncertainties about developments on the claimants' land.

"About three years ago, we bought that house knowing very well that the restitution process is under way on that land," said Ajulu.

It is believed the property is on the market for between R3-million and R3,5-million.

An agent from Pears Property Group said the area had a high land value and property prices ranged between R2-million and R6-million.

The agent said: "We still have to wait and see whether any planned development in the site will affect the value of the properties."

Victor Josephus, the spokesperson for the Protea Village Action committee, which represents the claimants, said: "We are looking forward to starting a residential development there and, at least for the first 10 years, we won't pay any rates."

Blignaut said residents did not object to the land restitution process as such. "They believe that the wrongs of the past have to be rectified but in a manner that also takes into consideration the concerns of others. So far, we feel that the state had only been very sensitive to concerns of the claimants," said Blignaut.

Residents are concerned about what will happen if the claimants decide to sell the land to a developer who may not be sympathetic to residents' concerns.

But Josephus said the committee had never even considered selling the land. "We want to reside there; land is much better than money."

A longtime resident, Morgan Goodchildbrown, 45, whose house faces the claimants' land, said his concern was that trees that were more than 300 years old would die if any development were allowed to take place in the area.

Another resident, Lizz Biggs, said: "If there will be any housing development taking place here,then it will be great if it can be well organised, preserve the natural character of the area and not spoil the neighbourhood."

The City of Cape Town's land restitution manager, Pogiso Molapo, said: "We are not certain about the future development of this land at this stage. We are conducting studies to check whether it is suitable for business or residential purposes."

Article By: Zama Feni and Genevieve van Velzen - www.iol.co.za