Cape Town - The Macassar Land Claims Committee is consulting lawyers this weekend to see whether the city’s recent rezoning approval to allow sand mining on an erf in the Macassar dunes can be challenged in any way.
The committee is incensed that the city’s subcouncil 22 approved an application for a five-year, temporary departure from the zoning scheme in respect of Erf 1197 – a 54.5 hectare site formally known as the Zandvliet Commonage – where resources company Macsand CC has been mining sand since 2001. The committee has had a land claim pending here since 1997.
The city approval was voted on April 14 – just 10 days before Macsand was refused leave to appeal by the Land Claims Court against its November interdict order that halted sand mining operations until the necessary zoning permit had been obtained.
This was the latest in a string of legal decisions going back to 2003, when the land claims committee won an interdict to stop Macsand operating until its land claim had been resolved.
But the company continued legally mining from 2007, when the Supreme Court of Appeal amended the interdict to allow it to mine certain identified strips on the property.
Another major legal judgment of relevance was in 2009 when the Constitutional Court ruled that while the Mineral Resources Department had the right to issue mining permits in urban areas, mining could not start until the local authority had given land-use planning and rezoning approval.
Under scrutiny for his role in the decision by subcouncil 22 is chairman John Heuvel, who is also ward councillor for Macassar.
Heuvel is a former director of Macsand, and the land claims committee believes he should have recused himself on April 14 because of a conflict of interest.
“We felt he played a very big part in this thing,” said committee chairman Carl Wilters. “We’ve never accused anybody (previously), now we feel we have to tell the truth. We just feel people out there should know – if you know politicians, you can get away with anything.That’s how we felt about this thing (the approval).”
But Heuvel dismissed the committee’s allegations. He confirmed that he had been a director of Macsand but said this had been long ago – “That was, how many years back? I can’t even remember.”
He confirmed being at the April 14 meeting but pointed out that as subcouncil chairman, he had conducted the meeting and had not taken part in the vote that had been unanimously in favour of Macsand’s application.
“I didn’t take part in the debate… I have no interest in Macsand or in any (sand mining) company. Why must I recuse myself?”
However, the land claims committee’s allegations are being considered by the city.
In response to questions by the Cape Argus, Garreth Bloor, Mayco member for economic, environmental and spatial planning, declined to comment on the ongoing land claim issues or the dispute between the parties, but added:
“The Speaker’s office is looking into the allegations of a conflict of interest made. It is important to note that a single councillor does not have a deciding say on the
decisions made by the subcouncil.”