Zumaville red-carded

2013-06-09 14:00

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Opposition from residents to move and red tape put the brakes on development

The R2 billion “Zumaville” development at President Jacob Zuma’s Nxamalala village has become tangled in red tape and opposition from local residents who face removal.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Mlalazi-Nkandla smart growth centre, as Zumaville is officially known, has been turned down by the department of environmental affairs.

The basic assessment submitted to the department lacked a waste-management plan and approval to proceed with the project, first mooted in 2010, was withheld.

Sources told City Press this week that the application, now regarded as “stagnant” in planning terms, would have to be done from scratch.

This process will take up to six months, along with a review period of around three months – a major setback for the project that has been dogged by controversy since plans were first put to paper in 2010.

This week, consultants and officials of the department of rural development met with Nxamalala Inkosi Vela Shange and a committee of izinduna from his traditional authority to try and break a deadlock with local people.

The meeting followed a community meeting on Wednesday at which residents of Shange’s area made it clear they were not willing to move out of their homes.

The more than 20 families say they do not want their family graves – some of which are centuries old – uprooted to make way for shops and offices.

Sibusiso “Deebo” Mzobe, Zuma’s cousin and deputy chairperson of the president’s Masibambisane community development initiative, said he expected work on Zumaville to begin by the end of the year.

Mzobe is informally called the “mayor of Zumaville”.

Mzobe said the problems regarding the EIA concerned only “sections” of Zumaville.

“This, of course, can create some delays but things are on track. It is not the whole site that has the EIA problems, just some sections. We are still hoping to be working before the end of the year,” Mzobe said.

He said some residents had opted to move and build new houses outside the Zumaville precinct, while others wanted to stay.

“This is an ongoing process of negotiation.

“We are trying our level best to get a buy-in from the whole community. We are still talking to the people who are affected,” he said.

“The money is there. We just need to address these issues and we can go ahead.”

Riaz Dawjee, the deputy director of rural infrastructure development with the rural development department, said the EIA had not been rejected.

“The complete environmental process undertaken in terms of the EIA regulations of 2010 has not yet been finalised and the basic assessment report must still be reviewed by the department of environmental affairs,” Dawjee said.

He added that the project required a waste licence, which was currently being applied for.

He said no community members would be moved to accommodate the development.

“The Nkandla smart growth project has at no stage indicated that community members would be required to move.

“In fact, the department has undertaken a detailed land rights investigation to ensure that existing rights are not affected,” Dawjee said.

When City Press visited Nxamalala on Wednesday, Shange’s clan members at the meeting were vocal about the perceived threat to their homes and their resistance to moving.

“We have nothing to say to outsiders and people we don’t know.

“We have held a meeting with Mzobe and made it clear that we don’t want a town here,” one man, who asked not to be named, said during the meeting.

“Let it be clear, that those among us who have no problem with moving are those who have no roots here. They don’t have their loved ones buried here.

“That is why it would be easy for them to up and leave,” said another resident.

Shange told City Press that the majority of the people in the community did not work and they were worried that the proposed development would increase the cost of living.

They were also worried that this new development would bring crime to the area.

Shange said the issue of tombstones was a sensitive one, hence the concern about family graves having to be moved.

“As things stand, there have been no lease agreements signed.

“So we cannot know when the project is planned to commence because we have not reached that stage yet,” said Shange.

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