Community eyes resort hotel

Posted On Thursday, 20 November 2008 02:00 Published by
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A landmark resort on the East Coast is squarely in the sights of a local community which wants the government to hand over the entire property in a massive land claim deal.

By Thanduxolo Jika

A landmark resort on the East Coast is squarely in the sights of a local community which wants the government to hand over the entire property in a massive land claim deal.

The Mazizini community has lodged a land claim which includes the Fish River Sun Resort near Port Alfred.

The Land Claims Commission validated the claim this year and the community has indicated it wants full ownership of the resort, along with adjacent farm lands.

On Wednesday the resort owners, Sun International and Emfuleni Resorts, went back to the Land Claims Court in East London to seek a final judgment on the commission’s recommendations.

Sun International approached the court over its concerns there had been unreasonable delays in the land claim by Mazizini on 56 farms in the area.

In papers submitted by Boqwana Loon & Connellan Attorneys, Sun International said the delays had stalled a R55million project to develop and improve the Fish River Sun complex.

Sun International also stated it wanted the community to be paid compensation or provided with alternative land.

The company argued the community did not have the financial resources and managerial experience to run the resort, and this situation, it said, would prove to be economically unviable for the interests of the broader community.

Sun International acquired the land from the then-Ciskei government in the late 1980s for R21m .

After taking ownership, a holiday and golf resort, together with a casino, were developed. But in 2001, after Emfuleni received a casino licence to develop and operate the Boardwalk in Port Elizabeth, the casino was closed down.

Emfuleni’s terms will see it maintain the hotel and golf complex at the Fish River Sun until 2010. But through their legal representatives Makhanya Incorporated Attorneys, the community insisted the land be returned to them under a Community Property Association (CPA), which is yet to be formed.

The community further proposed a settlement wherein the current resort owners be compensated for the value of the land.

It suggested Sun International and Emfuleni form a new entity with the community, who would then lease back the rights to use the Fish River Sun complex.

The claimants said the shareholding in the new company and the terms of the lease would be negotiated between the two parties.

In addition, the community demanded first preference regarding the procurement of services and staff in the company.

The proposal by the community was rejected by Sun International and Emfuleni.

A process of mediation was initially proposed by the court when Sun International first made its application in August.

The matter was referred to the Regional Land Claims commissioner Linda Faleni, but he found there was no reasonable prospect for resolving the matter by negotiation.

Faleni found the land claimed by the Mazizini community extended beyond the boundaries of the property owned by Emfuleni and Sun International. In his report he stated that restitution of the land was feasible but there was no alternative land to provide the claimants.

He found any provision of alternative land would not address the “dispossession, equality and past racially- based imbalances and inequities”.

The commissioner found the land to be suitable for restoration and said the two owners would not suffer any prejudice.

These findings by Faleni brought the matter back to court yesterday where the two parties argued their case.

Judge-President of the Land Claims Court Fikile Bam reserved his judgment.

Source: Daily Dispatch

Publisher: I-Net Bridge
Source: I-Net Bridge

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