Disappointment as council decides school should bid for vacant land

2016-03-04 10:51
Scottsville Primary School principal Bobby Nefdt stands at the vacant Bowling Club land opposite the school that he says the school needs for sports and aftercare facilities.

Scottsville Primary School principal Bobby Nefdt stands at the vacant Bowling Club land opposite the school that he says the school needs for sports and aftercare facilities. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Should unused land in the city be sold to economic developers or ­educational developers?

That was the question debated for more than an hour at yesterday’s meeting of the Msunduzi council’s executive committee, when the ­matter of whether the Scottsville Bowling Club should be bought by Scottsville Primary School or commercial developers was discussed.

Scottsville Primary has been ­involved in discussions with the ­municipality since 2005, trying to ­secure the vacant land, which is ­opposite the school, for an after-care facility and sports field. However, some councillors said the land should also be offered to commercial developers to provide an economic boost for the city.

The land is situated on a prime spot along New England Road, ­opposite the Golden Horse Casino. After much debate, the matter eventually went to the vote. The ANC’s majority ensured the committee decided that both the school and economic developers would be able to bid for the land.

“I cannot sit here in the twilight time of our council and pass something that will hinder the education of children,” said DA caucus leader Bill Lambert.

He, and fellow DA member Judith Lawrence, said the land should be given to Scottsville Primary as it had “nowhere else to extend the school”.

“I do not want to be chastised when I am buried and have people saying that I had no hindsight when the school has no room to grow,” he added.

NFP executive committee member Ntokozo Bhengu agreed with Lambert and Lawrence, suggesting the matter be stood down to allow further debate to take place.

“It is an open secret that we need to boost our economy, but I would be committing political suicide to allow a business to build there when the school really needs it,” she said.

ANC exco member Jabu Ngubo disagreed, saying the school had all the facilities it needed and it was the municipality’s mandate to build the economy. “There is a big difference between a need and a want. The school wants the land while our economy needs the boost,” she said.

However, Lawrence said the ­greatest investment council could make would be to invest in children and developing their skills.

Scottsville Primary principal Bobby Nefdt was disappointed to hear that the council considered the school capable of bidding against commercial developers for the land.

“We don’t stand a chance. We just do not have the money to go up against big-time bidders,” he said.

Nefdt said he had made numerous proposals to the municipality to use the land to build extra classrooms that would double as an after-care ­facility. He also wanted to use part of the land as a soccer field.

“We currently have about 300 children in our after-care, but with the growing number of working ­families, the after-care facility needs to be extended,” said Nefdt.

He said the land stands at a “perfect spot” as it was directly opposite the school and parents could pick up their children from a safe place.

Nefdt said the council could make a lifelong investment by giving the land to the school.

“We have been asking for this land for so long and have been motivating our case at many council meetings, but somewhere the decision changes and politics prevail,” he added.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  land  |  school

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