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Monday Dec 19, 2016

Saxonwolders just want peace in tree-lined suburb

Saxonwold in Johannesburg recently exploded into prominence on the national scene following the storm surrounding one of its resident families - the politically connected and highly influential Gupta family, friends of President Zuma.

The streets of the now famous suburb, north of the city, are laid out so as not to impede the view of the AngloBoer War Memorial at the heart of the enclave.

The suburb's Anglo-Saxonthemed and tree-lined avenues - Saxonwold Drive, Erlswold Way, Methwold Road, Englewold Drive, Abbotswold Road, Griswold Road, Northwold Drive, Ashwold Road, Restanwold Drive and Westwold Way - are the defining lines around it.

"If it (the street name) doesn't end with a 'wold', then it's not in Saxonwold," says Tessa Turvey, chairwoman of the Saxonwold and Parkwood Residents Association (Sapra).

Unlike most suburbs that are built on gridlines, Saxonwold roads stem from a central point at the Ditsong Military Museum and branch out in all directions, leaving visitors trying to get around the area with a headache.

"If you look at the map, you will see that from the museum the primary avenues have clear sight of the memorial and that is why people often get lost driving around Saxonwold," explained Turvey.

In the fast-changing landscape of a developing city, the posh neighbourhood remarkably retains the oldest manmade forest of trees, planted more than 100 years ago.

For the greater part of this year, Saxonwold has been the centre of political discourse with the emergence of allegations of state capture made by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor on their last visits to the Gupta compound.

Last month, outgoing Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe brought the spectre of Saxonwold back in the public eye when he claimed he could have been visiting a shebeen in the area.

He was responding to former public protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report, which located his cellphone in the neighbourhood on several occasions.

Molefe, who has admitted to being friends with one of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, emerged as a central figure in Madonsela's report on allegations of the Guptas' undue influence on state-owned entities.

His cellphone records placed him in the Saxonwold area - where the Guptas live - 19 times between August and November 17, 2015.

He resigned from Eskom after the report's release.

The Guptas' Sahara estate in the suburb is made up of about five properties, with the main house on Saxonwold Drive, a source of irritation for some of the neighbours who have for years protested against the "illegal property extensions" and presidential and ministerial motorcades frequenting their suburb.

There are about 560 properties in Saxonwold, each covering about 2 000m2, according to Turvey. The suburb is situated in what was once the Sachsenwald Foresty and its borderline runs along Oxford Road and Bristol in Parkwood near Rosebank, extending over Jan Smuts Avenue, separated from Forest Town, where Zuma once lived, by Walthan Road.

"Saxonwold is one of the most beautiful suburbs from a living point of view, largely because of the trees. You don't feel like you're in a city," said Turvey. "We are truly privileged to live here."

Residents of the suburb, according to Turvey, are a mixed bag of business, banking and other professionals.

Properties in the area, which also include some townhouses, will fetch anything from R3 million to R16m for a top-seller such as one of the Gupta mansions.

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)


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