China, Old Mutual to fund ‘Zumaville’

2012-08-04 16:06

‘Nothing untoward’ in planned R2bn smart village in president’s back yard

South African and international investors are being wooed to pump millions of rands into the development of “Zumaville”.

That’s the nickname that’s been given to the R2-billion “smart village”, which will be built in President Jacob Zuma’s home town of Nkandla.

Deebo Mzobe, who co-chairs the Masibambisane Development Initiative with Zuma, said the organisation had lined up Old Mutual, China Bank and Ithala, the KwaZulu-Natal government’s development bank, to invest heavily in the project.

Mzobe said it was Masibambisane which had come up with the idea of the new town.

He told City Press Masibambisane had partnered with the department of rural development to create the planned 200-hectare town.

The town will be built around existing government buildings and schools.

Mzobe said they were hoping to draw private-sector funding in to build the village’s commercial and light industrial components.

Mzobe said: “We have seen lots of other initiatives in the area. What we want is to take all of these, including existing plans for shopping malls and other facilities, and package them together within the overall Umlalazi-Nkandla Smart Growth Centre.

“We want to create commercial activity through agriculture and light industry to fight poverty. I believe this is a very good initiative.

“Once we are done, we are inviting investors, including Old Mutal, Ithala and China Bank, who have shown a very strong interest in investing.”

On Friday, the Mail & Guardian lifted the lid on the project, questioning why it was being built in Nkandla.

The newspaper speculated that the massive investment in Zuma’s own back yard would be used against him by his enemies at the party’s December elective conference in Mangaung.

Mzobe confirmed that an initial feasibility study, master plan and environmental impact assessment (EIA) had been conducted at rural development’s expense.

Once the final EIA had been done, work would go out to tender through a process run by rural development, he said.

Rural development spokesperson Mtobeli Mxotwa said his department was the “coordinator and facilitator’’ of the project, one of three such “smart villages’’ being built across the country.

The others, he said, were planned for Free State and Mpumalanga.

Mxotwa said the department had budgeted R5 million for planning and project management, R6 million for an ICT centre and R2.2 million for a feasibility study and master plan for the village, which would be built over a four-year period.

It had also picked up the tab for clearing and fencing the area. Mxotwa said other government departments and the private sector would pay for other facilities.

According to the EIA, which City Press has seen, the project will cost about R1 billion to complete, creating some 500 jobs and generating R10 million in wages in the development phase.

It identified no “fatal flaws’’ in the master plan for the project, which will include a shopping mall, agricultural market, some light industry, a boarding school and improved government office facilities.

Massive improvements in the road, electricity, water and sewerage infrastructure would be required for the project, it said in the EIA.

Project manager Craig Perritt of Aurecon, the consultants used by the rural development department for the project, refused to comment.

He said the department had insisted on a confidentiality clause in his contract.

Mxotwa said there was “nothing untoward’’ in the choice of Nkandla.

“Everything we are doing is within the framework of the green paper on land reform and our policies and mandates,” he said.

It is not clear at this stage what role the KZN provincial government – under whose jurisdiction Nkandla falls – will play in the project.

KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize’s spokesperson referred City Press to “the relevant departments” when asked for the provincial cabinet resolution backing the project.


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