Mthatha to get a face-lift

2014-07-13 15:00

A retired nurse turned developer has set her sights on transforming the area around Mthatha’s airport into a swanky multiuse precinct complete with hotels, houses and shops.

Lexie Ceza says she’s close to getting the R2?billion-R3?billion she needs to bring her plan to life.

If she succeeds, a large stretch of land alongside the R61 between Mthatha and Ngcobo will be developed.

“I’ve always had this idea of transforming the area on the western side of Mthatha because of its strategic position next to the airport and its potential,” said Ceza.

“This began with a casino licence which I acquired in the mid-1980s.”

Ceza, who owns a company called JoeLexie and a finishing school,said she had been toying with the idea for years.

“I have no doubt that Mthatha West will get the face-lift it needs. We are planning to use the proximity to the airport to our full advantage.”

Her plans, outlined in designs by Elphick Proome Architects, include shops, a budget and a four-star hotel, health facilities like clinics, an office park, schools, industrial warehouses and posh homes.

There will also be a casino and an entertainment centre.

Ceza would not go into greater detail about her plans, nor reveal the names of her potential investors and partners.

Vuyisile Ntlabathi, the president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the chamber was excited about the plan but was worried land claims might scupper it.

“We have lost many opportunities in Mthatha due to these claims. Investors have pulled out due to unresolved land claims, to the detriment of the local economy.

“We wish this project succeeds. It will create many jobs for our people and definitely result in positive spin-offs for the city,” said Ntlabathi.

But Ceza said she had received the buy-in of local chiefs and residents. AbaThembu king Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, under whose jurisdiction the land falls, was supportive of the idea.

Local chief Nkosi Jongisizwe Ndzambule, who is Dalindyebo’s confidant, said the king supported development if everything was done properly.

“People should work together. It is not the view of the king that people should make claims that will stop development. We all want development to take place so people can get jobs and other opportunities but at the same time, the owners of the land must be included,” said Ndzambule.

One of the biggest Mthatha developments to be put on ice due to a land claim was a shopping centre earmarked for Nkululekweni.

The centre was supposed to have opened in 2009 but claimants from the Kwalindile community accused the King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality of giving Landmark Mthatha the rights to the land without getting their consent as owners.

The company successfully sued the municipality for R300?million because it could not complete the shopping centre. Municipal spokesperson Sonwabo Mampoza said the land Ceza was eyeing was not subject to any land claims?–?it was owned by the municipality and a few local chiefs.

“At the end of the day, we all need development,” said Mampoza.

“Though it is still in its initial stages, the project sounds good. It will create jobs and stimulate the economy of Mthatha. This will also tie in with our own master plan to develop Mthatha into a vibrant city with plenty of opportunities.”

A new look for Mthatha

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