‘You own everything here’

2019-06-18 16:14
Pietermaritzburg attorney, Lucky Nhlabathi, who is building a multi-million rand house  in Mpumuza.

Pietermaritzburg attorney, Lucky Nhlabathi, who is building a multi-million rand house in Mpumuza. (Ian Carbutt)

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Fed up with restrictive by-laws, high rates and  cultural intolerance, hundreds of middle-class black families in Pietermaritzburg are abandoning affluent suburbs and moving to tribal trust land.

While the general trend is that some of them move from rural areas to townships and then when they can afford to, move to the leafy suburbs, the past few years has seen a steady influx of people moving back to land under the control of amakhosi.

Armed with unlimited cash, they have been responsible for a string of luxury house with enormous price tags being built in Mpumuza, Sweetwaters, and the outskirts of Vulindlela. The homes are valued in millions of rands.

Thinasonke Ntombela, induna of the Zondi clan, said the land, which has beautiful views, was in demand.

Ntombela said the chief plays an oversight role in the process where he is given a khonza (homage) fee of R1 000.

“This process is always followed when a person wants to obtain land or a site in our community,” he said.

“High municipal rates in the city and its unfriendly by-laws have been the main reason for this demand. Another issue is the shortage of burial land in the city, whereas, in rural areas, people can bury their relatives in their backyards.”

Ntombela said the area had attracted businessmen, attorneys, teachers, and managers from various government departments.

“Pensioners are opting for life in the rural areas. We have had people leaving places like Ashburton, selling off their properties and coming here to rebuild.”

Democratic Alliance councillor Sibongiseni Majola attested that hundreds of middle-class black families were abandoning the suburbs.

“You can see that they are well off. They are building houses worth millions. Even the appearance of areas like Mpumuza and Sweetwaters has changed.”

Majola said most of these residents were fed up with crime, restrictive by-laws and high municipal rates. “The contributing factor within Msunduzi is that with regards to water, they are not billed as per consumption, but through the flat rate. They regard that as a relief instead of staying in areas where they are billed in terms of consumption.”

Bruce Campbell of Natal Property Consultants expressed concern at the unrestricted home ownership. He said he had discovered “an outstanding amount of development” in Pietermaritzburg and along Richmond Road, which raised the problem of a lack of title deeds. “There is no ways I would purchase a property without getting a title deed. A lot of the people put a lot of trust in the chief or whoever is in charge of the area and they don’t seem to mind that. I believe that is very dangerous unless there is a water tight agreement.”

Campbell said most of the buyers did not understand the implications.

“The lack of title deeds means people can’t have their properties valued for resale nor could they become a means of future security should the owners require collateral to raise loans. It also means these properties are being built either for cash or via personal loans where the interest rates were substantially higher than that for mortgages.”

He questioned if any of the properties had been subjected to building requirements, architectural plans, limitations, and municipal approval that would ensure their safety and prosperity.

“There are not even plans submitted to the City council at all and there could be issues there in time to come with structural problems. They just get their homes drawn up and build the homes themselves.”

Pietermaritzburg attorney, Lucky Nhlabathi, moved to Mpumuza from Ballito in 2015 and said the area was relaxed and had beautiful views.

“Things are changing,” he told Weekend Witness. “When the Group Areas Act was relaxed a lot of us black people moved to the suburbs because we wanted to associate ourselves with the elite and supreme. But what is wrong with bringing that same lifestyle to the rural areas? I can certainly live that same lifestyle here,” he said.

Nhlabathi said the house was worth over R3 million.

Businessman, Sipho Zondi, also moved to Mpumuza in 2015 after he had been renting a flat in the CBD.

Zondi said he liked the area because it was peaceful and away from the busy city life. “You own everything here. You only have to worry about paying for water and electricity and that on its own gives you peace of mind. The land is also very spacious ...”

Zondi has built a double-storey house in the area worth over R1 million.

Ingonyama Trust Board

Established In 1994, the Ingonyama Trust holds in title about 2,8 million hectares of land across KwaZulu-Natal.

According to its website, this is for “the benefit, material welfare and social well-being of the members of the tribes and communities living on the land”.

King Goodwill Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the board, which indicates he is the largest property owner in the province.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  housing sector
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