De Hoek Mountain Resort, which is tucked away in the Swartberg Mountains near Oudtshoorn. Photo: Facebook.

Cape Town – Five Calitzdorp families who waited 20 years for the Calitzdorp Spa to be restored to them are outraged by the Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) plan to lease the property at the centre of the land claim to a German company for 50 years.

The families have vowed to fight the move to develop the property into what the municipality believes would attract a multimillion-rand investment into the local economy.

The municipality announced in April that it intended to enter into a long-term lease agreement with German financial firm LEN24 to manage and operate De Hoek Mountain Resort and Calitzdorp Spa.

The development planned for the land included Uber, luxury and deluxe chalets, a golf course, virtual reality arcade, a railway system, creating a lake, the reintroduction of ecologically friendly flora and fauna and future developments to enhance the resort.

But according to Kitty Jacobs, a family representative, there remained two land claims on the land that were not yet finalised.

Jacobs said the descendants of the two original owners of the land, which was originally separated by the Olifants River, were shocked to learn of the municipality’s decision.

“My great-grandfather was known as ‘Plaaitjie’ Prins and he was the one who discovered the Oog (Eye) where the hot springs come from.

“He started the hot bath and people would come from far and bathe in the hot springs. In the 1950s, under apartheid, an official took his and the Goliath family title deeds. Their land was taken from them,” she said.

Jacobs said her mother was one of two remaining grandchildren of Prins, who had always reassured his children that even though their title deeds were taken, the landmarks were still there on the land to tell the truth.

Jacobs said the family wrote to the municipality, objecting to the leasing of the land and have also approached lawyers as their land claims have not yet been finalised.

Rural Development and Land Reform spokesperson Phuti Mabelebele confirmed that the land claims on the De Hoek Mountain Resort and Calitzdorp Spa were still in progress.

She would not confirm whether the department would intervene in the families’ dispute with the municipality.

Ward councillor Werner Moshua said the families have reached out to an NGO called Lawyers for Human Rights and would also approach the SA Human Rights Commission. Moshua said there was an outstanding issue regarding which municipality the resort fell under. 

“It was still unclear whether the land fell under the Garden district or Kannaland municipality, which had not been resolved for several years. 

“The GRDM was responsible for the state the resort had fallen into and it should have consulted these families and approached local citizens before turning to a European company,” he said. 

Kannaland municipality spokesperson Ian Avontuur said the municipality was in the process of gathering legal advice on the matter. He said the municipality was using the framework of intergovernmental relations to determine if Kannaland was adversely affected by the Eden District Municipality’s decision. 

GRDM spokesperson Marlene Nqumse said both properties belonged and were registered under the municipality’s name. 

“The land restitution process is ongoing and it has not been confirmed to GRDM that it involves any of our properties.

“The GRDM held an investment conference in 2018 during which a public call for proposals was made to international and national investors to come and invest in the region. “LEN24 responded,” said Nqumse. 

She said no local businesses or residents tendered for the lease. LEN24 did not respond to questions by deadline.

Cape Times