Hermanus locals claim bribery in land deal
TEN years ago there was an agreement between the Overstrand Municipality, property giants Rabcav, and local residents to develop luxury housing on the beachfront land of Schulphoek in Hermanus to subsidise low-cost housing in the adjacent Zwelihle and Mount Pleasant townships.
This year the Overstrand Municipality sold Schulphoek to Rabcav for a song, and Zwelihle and Mount Pleasant residents received nothing.
Residents are still reeling at the fact that Rabcav bought the 1.7km stretch of public land, with a market value of R200m, from the municipality for a mere R5.3m.
There was no tender process, and the sale agreement makes no mention of the 590 houses that should have come to Zwelihle as part of the deal, nor the shops or community facilities. These formed part of the development facilitation agreement.
Now residents from Zwelihle and Mount Pleasant are speaking out. At a meeting in the township on Tuesday night, residents told of corruption and attempts to bribe them.
One was told he would be paid if he dropped his appeal against the provincial approval of the development.
They say the two-year period a developer has to put his development rights into practice lapsed for Schulphoek on September 2 and are therefore invalid.
When contractors moved on to the site on September 9, residents forced them to leave. If Rabcav wants to develop, they say they will have to put in a fresh application.
Residents also say that the Schulphoek development went through so many changes, and got approvals in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2008 – each time for a different scenario. They claim Zwelihle residents were last consulted in 2005.
Tuesday’s meeting, called by the Zwelihle Community Development Trust, included community leaders.
Bernard Overmeyer, a former ward committee member for Mount Pleasant, said he had lodged an objection to the 2005 approval for the development because it had failed to “take the community into account”.
“Then people came to visit me at work offering me money I could put in my back pocket if I would take away the objection. I chased them away and said I am here for the community,” Overmeyer said.
He never heard anything from the provincial authorities.
On September 2, 2008, former MEC Pierre Uys gave the development the green light. Uys did not address the issues Overmeyer had raised. Strong objections by Zwelihle and Mount Pleasant residents were allegedly ignored.
Minutes from meetings between Rabcav and the Overstrand Municipality from May 2005 document concerns that then deputy mayor, Theo Olivier, had about the development facilitation agreement between Rabcav and the municipality.
Minutes record that Olivier was opposed to the Schulphoek development as it would cut off public access to the coast.
He said the Zwelihle residents were unhappy and had drawn up a petition against it. He said the developers must go back to the community. It appears they never did. Bobby von During, former housing and community development manager for Overstrand Municipality and now a trustee of the Zwelihle Community Development Trust, said at the meeting that one of the major problems was when the Schulphoek development was “split off ” from the Zwelihle developments.
“This meant the community got absolutely nothing out of the deal,” Von During said.
Von During said Bredell’s investigators had not asked anyone from Zwelihle for information, nor had any of them been told about it.
The provincial authorities were asked to comment, but had not replied at the time of going to press.
The Overstrand Municipality spokesman Fanie Krige said he believed the Schulphoek development rights had not lapsed and that there had been no change to the development after agreement had been reached with the Zwelihle community.