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Brick manufacturing project on ice

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A proposal to enable a company to recycle and rehabilitate old mine dumps that are registered under the name of Sol Plaatje Municipality has been put on hold, pending an investigation into allegations of ’illegal activity’.

Sol Plaatje Municipality councillors during a special council meeting on Wednesday. Picture: Danie van der Lith

A PROPOSAL to enable Kimberley Rehabilitation and Development Pty Ltd (KRD) to recycle and rehabilitate old mine dumps that are registered under the name of Sol Plaatje Municipality has been put on hold, pending an investigation into allegations of “illegal activity”.

The public-private partnership would enable KRD to process mine dumps situated on municipal-owned land, for brick manufacturing that would in turn be used to build low-cost houses.

Opposition parties did not support the proposal.

It was advised during a special council meeting this week that the municipal manager should obtain legal advice and report back to council as to how the project could proceed in a legally-compliant manner, as it would “financially benefit the municipality”.

Sol Plaatje Municipality local economic development manager Phetlo Sithole noted that during a prior public participation process an objection was lodged regarding the mining of minerals on the land.

Council will be forced to approve the project afresh, as a court judgment handed down in 2021 found that a decision to hand over erf 5337 in Waterloo Road, West End, known as the BMW site in 2020, to KRD should be reviewed and set aside.

Aiming High Development Corporation, trading as Evolution Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd, approached the court as it claimed that it was entitled to the same property.

In court documents, Patrick Deon Nazim Simons, a director of the company, submitted that he had already made a proposal to the municipality to construct a private hospital on the same erf.

A resolution was taken by council to approve the alienation of a portion of the land (six to seven hectares) in Waterloo Road in December 2012 for an amount of R120 per square metre, although the company had applied for 24 hectares of land.

Following a council meeting in 2015, Evolution Investment Holdings was advised that the remainder of erf 5337 would be alienated for an amount of R6.2 million.

It was indicated in court documents that Evolution Investment Holdings was not a registered entity and that it did not have any legal standing.

Council proceeded to alienate the same property to KRD on July 22, 2020.

During the special council meeting on Wednesday, ANC chief whip Martin White recommended that land at the BMW site, as well as in Colville, St Augustine’s Road, two sites in Roodepan and land on the farm Vooruitsig, should be made available to KRD to rehabilitate the dumps and manufacture bricks, where 400 hectares of gravel would be extracted “at no cost” to the municipality.

Sol Plaatje executive mayor Kagisho Sonyoni took strong objection to insinuations from the EFF that bribes were exchanged to facilitate the project and shouted that it was a “serious allegation”.

EFF councillor Pontsho Mocwana found it “suspicious” that the ANC was bulldozing the project through council.

“Members of the Spellum committee were personally persuaded by Sol Plaatje executive mayor Kagisho Sonyoni to approve the project. I never mentioned any names, but if the shoe fits …”

He added that a parallel process was held with mayoral committee members, where a presentation was made by KRD behind closed doors on February 29.

”We are of the view that the acting municipal manager was supposed to have instructed legal services to urgently obtain a court interdict and lay charges of trespassing, unlawful occupation of land and theft against KRD and its owner in the absence of a council resolution.”

He advised that he had conducted a background check on the company and its ownership.

“We established that the core business of the owner of this company is mining, although it professes to be an expert in brick manufacturing. The owner of the same company, in 2018, provided bricks for the construction of houses in Soul City. The houses had to be demolished due to the poor quality of the bricks, which cost the municipality millions of rand.

“We also established that the owner of this company also tried to mine illegally without any benefit to the community of Lerato Park and was subsequently chased away by members of the community.

“We have no intention to defend or promote corruption, neither do we have any intentions to abandon and dispose of our community’s assets.”

Mocwana added that EFF councillors were refused access to the site when they tried to conduct an inspection on May 5.

“The area was barricaded with a pole-to-pole prohibition steel chain and a company name board. It is evident to us that the company is occupying the land and busy with operations without an approval from council.”

He stated that the Spellum chairperson had advised the owner not to allow them to enter the property.

“As a result, we have every reason to believe that indeed an illegal and unauthorised operation of activities are taking place.

“Throughout the years, Sol Plaatje Municipality was approached by interested parties such as the Kimberley Artisanal Miners to work on these dumps. An agreement reached in 2018 between the Department of Mineral Resources and Sol Plaatje Municipality would enable the dumps to be donated to the artisanal miners for mining and local economic development. The ground contains residue minerals that can be extracted.”

FF+ councillor Kobus van den Berg recommended that the land be advertised on an open tender.

“Everyone interested should be allowed to take part in the process.”

Sol Plaatje Service Delivery Forum councillor Dennis Pienaar did not support the application and stated that miners in Lerato Park had claimed that the owner of the company had offered to sell the diamonds that they had found, overseas.

“They are crying because they never received their money.”

ACDP councillor Roddy Loff warned that the approval of the application could lead to unnecessary legal action being taken against Sol Plaatje Municipality.

“Why was the tender given to the lowest bidder? The ACDP rejects this proposal. The people in Lerato Park are crying that the owner of the same company ran away with an eight-carat black diamond.”

Good councillor Rachel Wapad also did not support the proposal.

PA councillor Emile Adams pointed out that while he was “very impressed” with the proposal to create jobs in the city, he requested the matter to be put in abeyance in light of the “serious allegations” that were presented to council by the EFF.

White agreed that an investigation should be done into the allegations.

Sol Plaatje executive mayor Kagisho Dante Sonyoni during the special council meeting. Picture: Danie van der Lith
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