Illegal Wild Coast cottages reduced to rubble

2008-01-12 00:00

Only three holiday homes remain of the original 16 that nestled for years among the milkwoods along the Wild Coast.

The owners of the houses in the Blacksands region between Port St Johns and Lusikisiki, were ordered last year by the Appeal Court to demolish the houses and rehabilitate the area.

Officials of the Environmental Affairs Department visited the area this week to monitor progress.

The demolitions are the final chapter in a years-long dispute between the owners and the authorities.

The homeowners, who are farmers and businessmen from all over South Africa, acquired their land after striking deals with the local chief. A bottle of brandy and a party are reputedly all the "payment" required for prime spots right on the beach.

However, the Appeal Court ruled in favour of the ministers of Water, Forestry and Environmental Affairs on the grounds that holiday-makers cause serious damage to sensitive ecosystems, and that the land was acquired illegally.

Gladwill Mpuhlu, deputy director of the Environmental Affairs Department in Mthatha, confirmed that three houses are still to be bulldozed.

"The owners have already started planting indigenous plants to rehabilitate the land where the houses were,’’ Mpuhlu said.

Neil Hampson, one of the homeowners and spokesman for the Blacksands Homeowners’ Association, said it cost them more than R1,8 million in legal fees to try to hold on to their houses.

"We were throughout portrayed as filthy rich holidaymakers who went and built massive houses there. But not one of our Wild Coast houses cost more than R30 000," he said.

Hampson, a KwaZulu-Natal farmer and co-owner of Gwahumbe game farm near Eston, added that the owners themselves wanted to preserve the unspoilt nature of the area, and were opposed to any big development.

"It’s also a pity that the locals who worked for us for 15 years will now be out of work as a result of these demolitions,’’ he said.

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