Durban - The DA in eThekwini has criticised city manager S’bu Sithole for being “out of touch” with the real needs of Durban residents following his proposal to broaden the rates base by developing the city’s golf courses.
The party’s chief whip Dean Macpherson said the idea was “short-sighted” and showed how “out of touch” Sithole was with what was happening in Durban.
Macpherson said Sithole also had a habit of pronouncing on ideas before doing proper investigation.
In an interview with The Mercury earlier this week Sithole said that he was looking at unlocking several strategic sites, including golf courses. This was because he felt the land could be better used and be more financially beneficial for the city than at present as most long-term tenants at the sites were paying nominal rates.
Sithole’s plan was to develop the land on which some of the city’s municipal-owned golf courses were located to become upmarket residential areas, shopping complexes and office parks.
The Papwa Sewgolum golf course in Reservoir Hills, Windsor Park in Masabalala Yengwa (NMR) Avenue, Royal Durban within the Greyville racecourse and Beachwood, were some of the sites Sithole thought could be better used.
Macpherson said Beachwood golf course was not a public entity and the idea of turning it into a development was “astonishing”.
“And, where will the money come from to develop the golf course, where will the infrastructure come from? It will cost millions of rand to develop those sites,” he added.
Durban Country Club CEO Gerhard Patzer said that, as tenants, the club was open to suggestions. The club’s lease with the municipality expires in 2052.
Sithole said that Durban Country Club was an icon that needed to be maintained, but the city could possibly do without the other golf courses that were within a 20km radius of the CBD.
Patzer said Beachwood golf course was freehold property owned by the Durban Country Club, and he was “a little bit surprised” about Sithole’s comment because they would like to preserve the club for recreational purposes.
Although the club has been under financial pressure and recently received a R45 million bail-out from its members to pay off its debt to Standard Bank, Patzer said Beachwood was “not on the market”.
“We would like to maintain both clubs but clearly the city manager has bigger plans, so we are happy to meet with him and discuss any changes he may have in mind,” he said.
Patzer added that while the club did not have proposals, any development at Virginia Airport would have an impact on Beachwood because they were neighbours.
“Beachwood is not on the market but, like any business, we would consider our options provided the right offer was made,” Patzer said.
Apart from golf courses, the city was keen on developing the Centrum site opposite the Durban Exhibition Centre and converting Virginia Airport into a mixed use development.
Numerous attempts by The Mercury to get comment from Royal Durban golf club were unsuccessful. -The Mercury