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Thursday Dec 06, 2012

Public protector finds Cape Town land deal above board

The controversy around the Foreshore land deal between Naspers and the city has been clarified with the public protector finding that the R100 million purchase price was reasonable and that there was no evidence that anyone had improperly benefited from the deal.

Opposition parties in council voiced their concerns, saying the DA administration had paid more than double the market price for the land earmarked as part of the Cape Town International Convention Centre's (CTICC) R690m expansion.

The ANC called on the public protector to investigate the sale while Mayor Patricia de Lille last month assured council that the expansion would not go ahead until the findings were released.

Yesterday, the deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, said the city had been "vindicated" by the findings which said that the deal was above board.

"The public protector's findings are a clear vindication of the city's belief that the African National Congress's complaint on this matter was vexatious and driven by petty politics.

"Most importantly, the public protector found that the deal was in the best interests of the city, that the purchase price was reasonable and that there was no evidence of any individual improperly benefiting from the deal," Neilson said.

The key findings of the investigation revealed that the reports that valued the property at no more than R50m were not substantiated by the evidence and no evidence could be found to indicate collusion between the city and Naspers with the aim of short-changing taxpayers.

No evidence could be found of individuals improperly benefiting.

The ANC previously claimed that collusion between the city and Naspers shareholders resulted in the land being sold for double its value.

As part of the deal the city said it would lease about 500 parking bays to Naspers and also agreed that, should the CTICC stop operating, Naspers will be able to lease the space from the city.

The public protector said remedial action had to be taken as officials had failed to inform the council that the property would be subject to a height restriction and because the city did not take charge of sale negotiations from the outset.

Cape Times

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