Golf club a ruin

Old Gra­ham­stown golf course may be de­vel­oped for stu­dent housing

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - LOUISE CARTER

THE derelict state of the his­toric Gra­ham­stown Golf Club is caus­ing a stir among Gra­ham­stown res­i­dents who are scratch­ing their heads at what has be­come of the once pres­ti­gious amenity.

Bro­ken doors, shat­tered win­dows, torn and ripped out ma­te­ri­als lie strewn in what was once a beau­ti­ful club­house. In 2015, Gra­ham­stown Golf Club “moved” to Bel­mont Golf Club, end­ing al­most 120 years of his­tory. The Gra­ham­stown golf course is re­puted to be the third-old­est in the coun­try and is fondly re­mem­bered by many past pres­i­dents, club mem­bers and Gra­ham­sto­ni­ans as a cen­tre point for so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties.

Part of the move was a land swap deal which saw the Gra­ham­stown Golf Club be­com­ing Bel­mont Golf Club and the land at the old golf course re­zoned with a plan to be de­vel­oped into a multi-mil­lion rand private res­i­den­tial es­tate. The pro­posal by company Bel­mont De­vel­op­ment was for a de­vel­op­ment con­sist­ing of 627 houses, three apart­ment blocks, and a shop­ping com­plex with 750 park­ing places.

While the de­vel­op­ment of Bel­mont Golf Club went smoothly and it has es­tab­lished it­self as a world-class fa­cil­ity, prob­lems arose be­tween Bel­mont De­vel­op­ment and in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal in­vestors re­gard­ing the “old golf club”. In De­cem­ber 2015, the in­vestors, James Wil­liamson and Nor­we­gian in­vestor com­pa­nies, Dol­phin Man­age­ment, Robert Iversen Hold­ings, Jemi Hold­ings, Arne Frostad Hold­ings, Geni Hold­ings and Stale Invest won a high court judge­ment against the di­rec­tor of Bel­mont De­vel­op­ment to put the company un­der busi­ness res­cue. The in­vestors al­leged that di­rec­tor of Bel­mont De­vel­op­ment, David Davies, con­ducted the af­fairs of the company in a man­ner that dis­re­garded the in­ter­ests of the other stake­hold­ers and was in breach of an agree­ment with them.

Since then, no de­vel­op­ment has taken place at the Cradock Road golf course and it re­mains a mys­tery to many who re­mem­ber the now ne­glected fa­cil­ity with fond mem­o­ries. Past pres­i­dent and mem­ber of Gra­ham­stown Golf Club for more than 60 years, Bob Kee­ble, said it was heart-break­ing to see the club­house in the state that it is. “It’s a mys­tery, a lot of us are won­der­ing what is go­ing to hap­pen, if any­thing,” he said.

Kee­ble re­calls that the club­house was a venue for many so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties out­side of the game of golf in­clud­ing a pop­u­lar Sun­day mar­ket, a monthly steak evening which at­tracted hun­dreds of stu­dents, wed­dings and other func­tions.

TotT’s Gra­ham­stown cor­re­spon­dent Sid Pen­ney vis­ited the club­house on Wed­nes­day and de­scribed a scene of to­tal ne­glect. “The de­struc­tion and van­dal­ism to the club­house is far worse than any photo can de­pict,” he said.

In Novem­ber last year, Davies ap­plied for an in­ter­dict against the ap­pointed busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tioner Neil McHardy and Bel­mont DC, to pre­vent them trans­fer­ring own­er­ship of the land.

Sell­ing or trans­fer­ring the land would be in breach of the terms of the busi­ness res­cue.

The in­ter­dict also pre­vents the cur­rent owner from de­vel­op­ing the site or mak­ing any im­prove­ments.

A bit of light was shed on the mys­tery when Davies, in a tele­phonic in­ter­view with TotT, said there are sig­nif­i­cant plans for the land of the old Gra­ham­stown Golf Club.

He said he was cur­rently in

ne­go­ti­a­tions with Transnet to build and es­tab­lish a tech­ni­cal col­lege at the Gra­ham­stown sta­tion aimed at train­ing stu­dents for pri­or­ity skills.

“Ul­ti­mately I would like it to be the same size as Rhodes Univer­sity,” he said.

The land in­tended for the mass housing de­vel­op­ment will be re­zoned and de­vel­oped for stu­dent housing and ameni­ties.

As to a time­line for when the project will be un­der way, Davies said he has to wait to reach an agree­ment with his part­ners. “Hope­fully we can start as soon as an agree­ment is met,” he said.

Davies said, al­though it’s not of­fi­cial yet, that he was en­vi­sion­ing nam­ing the train­ing col­lege as Man­dela School of Engi­neer­ing. “It would be sig­nif­i­cant to have an icon of South African his­tory at op­po­site ar­eas of Gra­ham­stown,” he said.

With re­gards to the cur­rent club­house, Davies said it prob­a­bly will be bull­dozed as soon as de­vel­op­ment starts.

Makana mu­nic­i­pal spokesman Anele Mjekula was asked to com­ment about the state of the prop­erty and the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment but failed to re­spond by the time of go­ing to print.

Pic­ture: SID PEN­NEY

VAN­DALISED VENUE: The front en­trance of the old Gra­ham­stown Golf Club club­house is a shadow of its for­mer self, with bro­ken win­dows and doors

Pic­ture: SID PENNY

ONCE A CLOAK­ROOM: The men’s cloak­room at the old Gra­ham­stown Golf Club with sev­eral golf bags and parts of the ceil­ing and cup­boards strewn about

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