Former military testing ground set for housing development

2015-12-10 17:40
(Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

(Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

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Pretoria - A former military training ground in Pretoria West would soon become a modern housing project with at least 4000 units.

Tshwane had already set out the plan and appointed a developer. However, the challenge posed by the Elandsfontein Plot, near the Gerotek Test Facilities in Pretoria West, were bomb remains.

Defence clearance company Mechem had been commissioned to demine the land before work could begin. Community safety mayoral committee member Terrence Mashigo said they had appointed the Denel company as they did not have the expertise and resources required to clear the land.

"We will start with the project very soon. All we are waiting for is for Denel to provide us with the service, because we don’t have it as the city to ensure there are no bombs in the area. We know the history of the area and we are hopeful they will be able to help us," he said.

"In this plan, you will find schools, clinics and shopping complexes. Project developers have been appointed and everything is on course."

Mashigo said the decision to ensure the bombs were cleared stemmed from the challenges they had encountered in Atteridgeville. Township residents have been recovering mortars that had exploded as they dug through their yards.

In 2011 Amos Khoza, 37, and his 4-year-old son, Njabulo, died when a mortar shell exploded when a bonfire was lit in their yard.

The mother was severely injured by shrapnel and spent a month in intensive care and two weeks in high care. There were about 9 000 squatters living in Schurveberg, a World War 2 artillery firing range.

An estimated 10 tons of ammunition, including mortar rounds, mines, tank shells, grenades and bullets, were believed to have been dumped there in trenches in the 1940s. In October 1991, the defence force transferred ownership of the range to the public works department which passed it to Tshwane municipality.

Mashigo said the city did not want to encounter the same problem with the new project. He said after combing the new land, they would ask Denel to remove whatever bombs may still be at Schurveberg.

"We can’t build roads in the area, because we don’t know what is still underground in the area. We will employ the people and they can locate where the bombs are, because we don’t have the skills to do that," he said.

About 674 000 square metres has been completed with another 600 000 square meters remaining. Among the remnants found were a 3-inch mortar from World War 2, bazooka rocket boosters and bullets.

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