First Xai-Xai now Bilene, say developers

2011-07-23 00:00

“I TAKE white people’s land away and you sell yours to them,” President Robert Mugabe apparently told Mozambican President Armando Guebuza.

From what Braam Bruwer, a large property developer and investor in Mozambique, has been told, this conversation took place during a leaders’ summit of the Southern African Development Community in 2004.

 An angry Mugabe threw down a Pam Golding International pamphlet (advertising Bruwer’s La Perla paradise resort on the Bilene lagoon) in front of Guebuza and confronted him about Mozambique’s land policy.

Shortly afterwards Mugabe visited Guebuza at his beach house, 100 metres from Bruwer’s own holiday home. On that occasion Guebuza told Mugabe he would “get the La Perla resort ready” for the elderly Zimbabwean president, according to Bruwer.

“Then last Friday’s incident took place,” Bruwer said.

Bruwer suspects that his erstwhile partner in the resort, Belmiro Malate, the Mozambican ambassador in Japan, is behind the incident. Their partnership dates back to 1994, when Malate was a senior government official.

According to Bruwer, Malate, to whom Bruwer paid thousands of rands to help develop the resort, “cheated and lied” over a period of more than three years. Malate registered the La Perla resort in his own name only.

When Bruwer realised that, Malate apparently back-pedalled and said Bruwer should enter into a 60/40 partnership with him for La Perla and a 50/50 partnership for other similar properties.

That process went awry and the tension between the two led to the occupation last Friday.

“We had millions invested there,” said Bruwer.

He personally employed 1 000 people. Another La Perla investor built a school for 400 children. Water and electricity were laid on for 150 households of the local community.

Two South African doctors who own houses in the resort provide free medical services to the local population.

A spokesperson for the Mozambican embassy in Pretoria, Z. Cossa, has rejected Bruwer’s version of the events.

“He [Bruwer] built the houses on the site without the necessary authorisation.”

He would not confirm that Mozambican soldiers and police are still occupying the resort and had evicted the residents.

But Bruwer insists that he has the legal authorisation to build up to 60 homes on the site.

The first of the existing 15 homes were built next to the Bilene lagoon in 1994. Since then the necessary services have been put in place for the future development of a further 30 sites.

The houses that have already been built were erected after the government approved the plans, said Bruwer. “Without that approval it could not have happened.”

“It is not the first time that this has happened. Earlier this year the same thing happened to another South African development near Xai-Xai.”

Asked what these events mean for South African holiday home owners and concession holders in Mozambique, Bruwer said he has just paid R100 000 to advertise holiday homes in Mozambique. “Now I don’t know what to tell people.”

Bruwer said that if the Mozambican government does not reverse the seizures he will “definitely” apply to a South African court to seize Mozambican assets in South Africa.

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