This was where the town's jukskei facilities used to be. These were demolished this week without notice to the club to make way for the Masingita Group of Companies' proposed expansion of Makhado Crossing into a regional mall.
Date: 22 January 2018 By: Isabel Venter
Controversy continues to surround the proposed further development of the Makhado Crossing shopping mall in Louis Trichardt.
The Makhado Municipality came under fire this week after local sports clubs were nothing short of hoodwinked out of their respective facilities.
While investigating Council’s conduct surrounding the development, several dubious practices came to light. For one, it is widely speculated that Council deliberately kept the clubs in the dark for the development to be pushed through to avoid any more objections from the clubs.
Governing bodies of the various sports clubs affected by the proposed mall development were shocked to learn this week that contractors were on site and had already started with ground clearing. In the process, the jukskei club’s facilities had already been demolished. The club is understandably furious because they now have nowhere to practise for upcoming tournaments, of which the first was scheduled to take place this weekend.
Other properties in jeopardy include the town’s rugby, soccer and netball fields and the well-known rugby lapa. All of them will have to make way for Makhado Crossing to be expanded into a much bigger regional mall. The current owner and developer of the mall is the Masingita Group of Companies.
When the newspaper spoke to the various representatives of the sports clubs, it became clear that none of them was any the wiser as to what the municipality was up to. Representatives told the newspaper that they had received an invitation to a site meeting on Monday to be held at the rugby field the following morning. More than one representative could not attend this meeting because of the short notice given.
As it turned out, the meeting had been scheduled to give clubs feedback on the progress of their relocation, with the only progress being that a contractor for Masingita had gone on site on Monday, 15 January. (The newspaper confirmed with sources at the rugby lapa that construction had in fact already started on Thursday, 11 January).
Following the municipality’s announcement, further particulars were few and far between, with some being downright sketchy. According to what the newspaper could glean from various people who attended the meeting, the municipality itself could not provide any solid plans or presentations on how exactly the different sports clubs’ relocations would be dealt with.
This was found to be in direct violation of all previous undertakings by Council regarding the matter, and even of what was undertaken between Masingita and the municipality. According to attendees, a representative of Masingita read out sections of a contract in which it was agreed that Masingita would first finalize the relocation of the various sports facilities before they would start with construction.
Council had also, way back in 2015 during their 103rd special council meeting, held on 12 November, resolved that a part of the purchase price, as determined, had to be used for the relocation of sporting facilities to a suitable area to be determined by the municipality.
During another Council meeting held on 8 December 2016, the municipality resolved that the rugby and soccer fields be established on the newly earmarked area east of the municipal show grounds. At this meeting it was further decided that “the relocation plan be jointly planned between the sporting codes, municipality and Mr T Phiri (CEO) acting on behalf of the Masingita Group of Companies”. It was also made clear that the relocation of the various sports facilities would first be concluded before any development could be conducted.
The following year, at the 120th special Council meeting on 30 May 2017, the municipality resolved to put aside a capital amount of R7 431 707.25 for the relocation of the rugby stadium, squash courts and other sporting facilities as provided for in the provisions of the sale agreement with Masingita.
Why, then, would council go back on their word and simply stand by idly as sporting facilities were demolished?
This and other urgent questions regarding the development were forwarded to the municipal spokesperson, Mr Louis Bobodi, on Tuesday. Bobodi said on Wednesday, however, that he had not had time to prepare any response because of the various back-to-school campaigns that were taking place the same day.
Sports club representatives at Tuesday’s meeting were also informed that the municipality would provide a detailed time schedule of the planned development during a follow-up meeting, scheduled to take place on 26 January (next Friday). This, and the fact that Masingita indicated that ground clearing needed to be done by April for construction to start, raised several concerns. Representatives of the rugby club, for instance, were extremely sceptical that the rugby and soccer fields would be relocated before then as it takes more than a year before new fields will be match ready. The big question remains: Who gave the go-ahead for existing sports facilities to be demolished before any attempt was made to relocate these facilities to a new site?
Isabel joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2009 as a reporter. She holds a BA Degree in Communication Sciences from the University of South Africa. Her beat is mainly crime and court reporting.