Residents fear loss of value
Descendants of a slave community are making a comeback in a Durban suburb and their future neighbours are getting edgy. Chris Makhaye reports
ATENSE one-and-half hour meeting took place in the Anglican St Barnabas Church on the Bluff on a drizzling Wednesday evening this week.
It started on an explosive note, with about 200 people in the audience gathered to express concern about the future of their neighbourhood and fears that their properties would be devalued if low-cost housing developments went ahead as planned.
The bone of contention is the proposed development of the low-and middle-income two-and three-bedroomed homes on 43ha of prime land opposite the church in Bluff Road.
The planned houses are meant for a Muslim community descended from Zanzibari slaves who were rescued when their ship capsized off the Bluff more than a century ago.
The group mostly live in Chatsworth’s Unit 2.
Although Zanzibari families were moved there from the Bluff in the 1960s, their communal mosque, school and a cemetery remain intact.
According to Alpha Franks, a member of the committee, they remained emotionally attached to the area and many of their loved ones are buried there.
“I remember that time so well. I was only six when we were told to move,” he said.
The land was awarded to the community in 2003 but it was only this week that Bluff residents were made aware of the proposed development.
Thamim Abubaker, the chairman of the Zanzibari Community Development Trust, told residents that consultation about the development was still under way and that the municipality had yet to present its plans.
He said that residents would be able to register themselves as interested parties and that their objections would be aired as part of the process.
The chairman of the Concerned Bluff Residents’ Commit- tee, Clive Herron, a resident of the area and former municipal councillor, said the aim of the meeting was not only to discuss the proposed development but to interact with the Zanzibari community.
“The meeting was certainly emotional,” he said. “Many people are concerned about the new neighbours-to-be and others are worried about the standard of the houses to be built. This was the first of such meetings and we have an undertaking from the Zanzibari community leaders that they will furnish us with more information.
“We got a sense that they wanted to push this matter as soon as possible,” said Herron,
“But as residents we feel we must be consulted throughout and our views must be respected and taken into account.”
Herron said that although an environment impact assessment and a complete town planning for King’s Rest area were still to be conducted by the city, initial plans from the community show that the development also included a trade zone along Bluff Road.
He said residents felt that Zanzibaris should forgo the zone so that land would be available for bigger houses.
The next meeting to discuss the issue will be in February next year.