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Friday Mar 02, 2012

Controversial Gugulethu Square mall purchased in package deal

The three-year-old Gugulethu Square mall has been bought by property loan stock company Synergy Income Fund.

The acquisition was part of a package that included Setsing Crescent in the Free State.

Both were sold by Old Mutual Ideas Fund and associated shareholders and the combined price was R530 million.

The mall was controversial when it was being developed in 2008. Local business owners refused to leave the land on which they operated to make room for the 253 000m² mall, claiming they were entitled to the right to purchase the land.

There was also a movement entitled the Gugulethu AntiEviction Campaign, which argued the mall would not benefit the community but only the wealthy investors. They held a number of demonstrations and protests against the mall, one of which erupted into violence. Seven protesters were arrested and police used rubber bullets on the crowd.

CEO of Synergy Income Fund William Brooks was aware of the controversy surrounding the mall and said he wanted the mall to have a positive impact.

"We will be looking for ways to make this mall an asset to its community. We will start looking at what we can actually do to involve the community once we get closer to the transfer."

Brooks also expressed a desire to work with the former partial owner of Gugulethu Square, well-known local entrepreneur Mzoli Ngcawuzele, and said: "We know Mzoli is a pillar in the community and we are in contact with him to try and keep him involved."

Ngcawuzele owns the famous Mzoli's restaurant in Gugulethu and is a partner of Westside Trading, which owned a 9 percent share in the mall.

Prior to the acquisitions of Gugulethu Square and Setsing Crescent, Synergy Income Fund owned 12 shopping centres and was worth about R1.1 billion. With the new acquisitions its value will rise about 50 percent to about R1.7 billion, and it will own 14 properties.

Cape Argus

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