Thukela Disneyworld

2008-12-09 00:00

LAST week the N2 freeway north of the Thukela River as well as the R102 was blockaded by hundreds of protesting people belonging to the Macambini community. Police believe that the ensuing chaos was well planned and tourism officials fear that further disruptions to traffic, especially as the holiday season gets under way, could cost the north coast millions of rands in lost tourist revenue.

The Macambini residents were protesting against the failure of Premier S’bu Ndebele’s office to respond to a memorandum of grievances. At the root of their unhappiness lies a proposed multibillion rand Disney-style development called Amazulu World led by a Dubai-based company Ruwaad Holdings, a proposal reportedly particularly dear to the heart of Ndebele. It apparently includes a residential segment, entertainment attractions and retail and commercial offerings.

The snag is that if the Thukela Disneyworld is to go ahead — and the global economic meltdown could well ensure that the plans are still-born — 8 500 small-scale farmers will have to be uprooted and moved elsewhere. Is this to be a bizarre reincarnation of apartheid-era forced removals? Community members were quoted as expressing strong opposition to being separated from the graves of their ancestors. It could be argued that apartheid planners had no real understanding of just what this might mean to affected communities. Ndebele can have no such excuse.

The land in question is tribal land owned by the Ingonyama Trust. The area is IFP-aligned politically. If the residents were African National Congress-supporting, would they face a similar threat of group areas-style removals? Or are the Macambini regarded as second-class citizens by the provincial authorities?

While this country certainly requires overseas investment, is an African Disneyworld on the rolling hills north of the Thukela really the sort of development we want? Or is it a sellout of the provincial birthright? Nothing has been heard of late of Premier Ndebele’s other project of a gigantic statue of King Shaka on the banks of the river. Perhaps this scheme will also prove to be a mirage. Macambini residents hope so.

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