Land claimants object to rough deal as golfers get first choice
Plans to shift facility open can of worms in Winelands town
● A plan to relocate one of the country’s oldest golf clubs has provoked accusations of foul play in the heart of the Cape winelands.
The 110-year-old Wellington Golf Club, nestled between a rubbish dump and a former coloured township, this week voted to back the plan for a more upmarket site on the outskirts of town.
The new course would mostly be on vacant private and municipal land, but would include a small parcel of land belonging to the national government and earmarked as a sports field for Huguenot High School.
The proposal has prompted dissent not only in the school community but among a group of land claimants who have waited 22 years for restitution — and who accuse Drakenstein municipality of favouring profit over people. They say any vacant municipal land should be granted to them.
There are also fears that the proposed land swap is linked to a municipality-led plan to locate a giant waste incinerator next to the current nine-hole course — a plan shelved after a legal challenge by residents.
It is also unclear whether the government would allow developers to use land earmarked for the high school. The departments of public works and education are looking into the matter.
Documents seen by the Sunday Times this week show that public works transferred the land to the education department in 2016. It was earmarked for the school but has now been incorporated into the proposed new golf course, according to the development proposal submitted to the golf club this week.
In contrast to the picturesque new site, the current course — considered the cheapest and most accessible golf club in the winelands — is bisected by a major road and lies in the shadow of the municipal dump.
The head of the Sakkieskamp claimant community, Patrick Kohli, said people were suspicious of the golf course proposal because they feared the municipality might pursue commercial rather than social development on the vacated site.
“We were told the municipality doesn’t have land for claimants,” said Kohli, who lives in a shack in nearby Mbekweni. “They can’t sell that land [the old golf course] until our problem is solved.”
However, proponents of the new development said it could solve, not exacerbate, the town’s social housing problems.
David Waddilove, who is marketing the proposal, said affordable housing was part of the motivation for the move. He denied any link between the proposal and the waste incinerator.
“I am aware that there are social pressures, but the fact of the matter is that as long as the golf club stays where it is, the land can’t be used for anything else,” Waddilove said. “By relocating the golf club we open up opportunities for the town.
“It certainly won’t help the town that this should become something divisive. Hopefully, we as residents can help formulate a vision of how we want the town to look in 20 years.”
Golf club manager Erwin Rix said members were fed up with rampant crime at the site, where players were sometimes robbed. He said a condition of the move was retention of the same membership and green fees, so that members would not be excluded due to escalating costs. “It won’t cost us a cent to move,” Rix said.
The municipality said the golf course proposal had been referred to a technical committee. Acting planning manager David Delaney said: “As far as the municipality is concerned, the proposal has been put on ice and is not approved until we receive the necessary technical and other information from the developer.”
He confirmed that the plan entailed developing the current golf site for industrial purposes and affordable housing.
The proposal is also being considered by the school governing body, which has been offered a parcel of alternative municipal land. But Pierre Gerber, who helped secure the land for the school three years ago, said the school had no mandate to do deals with developers — and permission for a land swap should come from the national government.
He said the proposed alternative land for the sports field was vastly inferior to the current site, which was a valuable asset to the school community.
Patrick Kohli, chairman of the Sakkieskamp land claimant group, wants social housing on the old golf club site.