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Monday Aug 02, 2010

Outrage over sale of Hermanus beachfront land

The Overstrand municipality has come under fire from residents who say the recent sale of Schulphoek, the last remaining undeveloped public beach-front land in Hermanus, is unlawful.

The municipality sold Schulphoek for R6.1 million in January this year to property giants Rabcav, a joint venture between Rabie Properties, headed by John Rabie, and Cavcor Properties, headed by Leslie Viljoen. The site will be be developed into a gated village of 245 luxury houses. Now the Hermanus Ratepayers Association(HRA) has appealed to MEC Anton Bredell and Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale to revoke the sale.

The saga began in 1999 when the Overstrand council appointed Rabcav as the development facilitator. The agreement was to "generate additional income for the council to fund the needs and demands of the community". But a decade later, not a single low-cost house had been built, although thousands of Zwelihle residents were on the council's housing waiting list.
After the agreement was signed five sites - Fernkloof, Grotto Beach, Swartdam, Voelklip 711 and Schulphoek - were selected to be developed, but later shelved because of objections that the land was green-belted.

Then, in 2004, the highly controversial multi-million-rand Fernkloof Golf Estate development went ahead. Residents have since demanded the Overstrand municipality explain why R30.5m of public money was used to build the private golf course; why Rabcav was paid R83.3m for their "facilitation fee"; why there were no tenders for the R76m infrastructure contracts; and what the details were of the R3.2m that Rabcav claimed were "miscellaneous expenses".

Hot on the heels of the Fernkloof development, the provincial government approved the proposal for Schulphoek in November 2005, but an appeal by retired lawyer Deon Malherbe halted the sale pending the outcome of the review of the decision.
Former head of the Overstrand housing and development department, Bobby Von During, said since 1999 Rabcav had had various meetings with the community during which "a lot of promises were made" none of which had materialised.

At a meeting on May 12, 2005, a number of individuals objected to the sale and development of Schulphoek. As stated in the minutes, which the Cape Times has a copy of, former Deputy Mayor Theo Olivier said he was opposed to the development, and called for a public meeting.

But despite objections, the Schulphoek project was given the go-ahead. The 64ha property was transferred to Rabcav in January 2010. In addition to the R6.1m in cash, the municipality will receive business premises worth R5.7m, bulk services of R17.5m and R1m in "facilitation fees" in exchange for the land.

Linda Griffiths, chairwoman of the HRA, said the sale of Schulphoek was "fatally flawed and unlawful". "It's a travesty of justice. The very last jewel and crown of Hermanus was virtually given away and sold without the consent of the majority of people. We are horrified," said Griffiths. The HRA claimed:

  • The sale was neither properly advertised nor put out to tender.
  • The market value of the land was not clearly determined.
  • The development would cut off the public's access to the sea.
  • There were insufficient reasons for disposing of the land.
  • The Overberg Municipality's management policy was not followed and the proposed development was environmentally and socially objectionable.

    Von During said: "The whole idea was to sell Schulphoek first and then to use the money to cross-subsidise it for houses, rehabilitation of the old waste dump, sports fields and a centre with a 24-hour clinic. Nothing has happened. They sold off Schulphoek and forgot about the promises."

    But Mayor Theo Beyleveld hit back saying the sale was for the benefit of the entire community.He confirmed that the sale was not put out to tender. Following the Schulphoek sale the agreement between Rabcav and the municipality was terminated with them relinquishing all their rights on other portions of land, said Beyleveld.

    Cape Times

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