/ 20 November 2008

David vs Goliath in Gugulethu

David is squaring up to Goliath in the form of a small, petite butcher staring down developers of a R350-million mall in Gugulethu.

Construction work on this massive luxury shopping mall, called Gugulethu Square, in Gugs township is under threat because owners of a 25-year-old family business are refusing to make way for the mall.

The owners of SKhoma Butchery, Thandi Kama and her sister Nolothando Koyana, inherited their business from their father. They are refusing to move out of the building from which they operate their highly successful butchery and eatery, saying the mall will only benefit the elite and not the residents of Gugs.

Sand and dust from the construction site blows into the butchery daily as bulldozers and cranes are moving closer and closer to SKhoma Butchery.

Kama is standing her ground, though, because she believes she has a claim on the land. Her father, Stanley Koyana, had been promised that he would have first option to buy the ground on which his shop stood.

”My dad couldn’t own land because he was a black man and wasn’t allowed to buy and own city land. Since 1994 we have had an agreement that we would have first option to buy if ever the land is sold. The city sold this 34 000 square metres piece of land to Khula for R11,70 and never gave us the option to buy part of it. Now we must make way for the mall and continue to pay rent for the rest of our lives. I will fight this,” Kama said this week.

The two sisters received a lawyers’ letter this week giving them until the end of the month to ”vacate the premises”.

The letter, from attorneys Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, told the sisters they are ”holding up the construction of the new shopping mall and the damage our clients are already suffering and further future damage, which will be for your account, will be astronomical”.

Kama’s lawyer said she is lawfully occupying the premises because her lease agreement has not been cancelled. Kama and her sister said they ”wouldn’t be bought or threatened”.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr had been briefed by the landowner, Khula, and the developer, West Side Trading. The latter, which belongs to Gugs businessman Mzoli Ngcawuzele, owns a 9% share in the development estimated to be worth R31,5 million. Ironically Koyana helped Ngcawuzele when he started up his own butchery and restaurant.

Ngcawuzele instructed his lawyers to offer Kama payment for relocating her business and ”upon completion, to accommodate [her] in the new Gugulethu shopping mall”. With the support of a handful of other Gugs residents, they’ve vowed to fight ”the fat cats” and not take up their offer.

”We are not against development. We are not against the building of the mall even. We are against the fact that promises were made to our father regarding buying the land on which our shop is and those promises were not honoured.

”We’re also against the fact that residents of Gugs will not benefit from the mall — only the already wealthy BEE-beneficiaries will benefit,” Kama said this week.

She said it is always the same — ”already wealthy black and white business people benefiting from each and every development that happens”.

The initial investment of R350-million in the new mall was made by The Ideas Fund (Old Mutual), Mzoli Properties, Khula and Group 5. Group 5 is partly owned by ANC businessman Tokyo Sexwale. Requests for information from both Group 5 and its holding business, Mvelaphanda Properties, went unanswered.

The conflict around the mall has been brewing for almost two years when ”Gugs Tycoon”, as Ngcawuzele is nicknamed, evicted the tenants of the now bulldozed Eyona shopping centre. Tenants were given six months’ notice and then moved to containers further along the road. Some were moved to the old age home across the road.

Mgcawuzele, the famous owner of the even more famous ”Mzoli’s” restaurant and nightclub, said that there is nothing ”fishy” about this mall. ”To build a mall in Gugs has been my dream for the last eight years. We have consulted with every single community structure and everybody is happy with this development except for the anti-eviction campaign and the butchery across the road.”

He said a community trust is being set up which will ”give 5% of the value of the mall to the community”, adding that the paperwork explaining how this will work is not ready yet. And 10% of the mall will be offered to local business people who want to buy into the scheme, he said – but no paperwork explaining this offer is available yet either.

”Everything about this mall is transparent and honest. The mall will change the lives of Gugs residents and no politicians will benefit from it. We’re building this mall for love and not money,” Mgcawuzele said.

The mall is set to open in September next year with 70% of the retail space already given to retailers like Spar, Shoprite, Truworths, Foschini’s, the major banks and numerous other large outlets.

Evicted carwash shop owner Maurice Tena dismissed philanthropy as the driving force behind Gugulethu Square. ”The local small business people in Gugs will taste none of this massive cake,” he said. ”This cake, like all other major developments in the country, will benefit those driving black 4x4s already [a reference to Ngcawuzele’s large black Jeep Commando]. I was evicted from my shop to make way for this development. We have no guarantees that we will benefit. Other people – white people and the black elite – will benefit from this mall.”

Mcediso Twala from the anti-eviction campaign has been leading demonstrations against the mall for the past month because no local workers are employed on the construction site. ”Mgcawuzele is a bully who has employed MK veterans and taxi bosses to threaten [those of] us who are opposed to the way this mall development is proceeding. The poor need to benefit,” he says.

Mgcawuzele denied this, saying 40 workers of the 200 workers on the site were from the area.