KwaZulu-Natal - A sparkling pool, full dams, manicured lawns, lush vegetation and Balinese-type buildings.
It’s a scene set for royalty, but the question over whether anyone will be allowed to occupy this luxury development, estimated at R200 million, on the coast of Ballito, has yet to be decided.
The controversial development adjacent to Zimbali is just about complete. It is owned by Zimbabwean Robert Mhlanga, alleged to be a close ally of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe votes on Saturday on a draft constitution that will underpin new elections to end the uneasy power-sharing arrangement between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tensions are already increasing with reports on Friday that members of the Tsangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change were assaulted on Friday by Mugabe supporters as they were putting up posters in Harare.
The new constitution would curb the presidential powers Mugabe has enjoyed for decades and lay the groundwork for elections in July.
Neighbours of the Ballito property suspected the mansion could be a bolthole for Mugabe although this has been denied by representatives of the owner.
An aerial photograph taken on Friday when compared to an image taken almost a year ago, shows a beautifully laid out development, just about complete. The development comprises a gate house, two large dams, one estimated to be 6 000 m² and the other 3 000m², below ground grassed security offices and extensive paved and parking areas.
Mhlanga, an Air Vice-Marshall in the Zimbabwean Air Force before retirement, has denied he was a pilot for Mugabe.
He has been embroiled in battle with the KwaDukuza municipality, over building approvals for his development.
He claimed in court papers that he had not sought to flout building regulations, had taken expert advice, and that one of the two properties on which the development was located was agricultural land, for which no building plans were required, while the other had been rezoned.
The council last year said in court papers that they had “very serious concerns about the nature of the building works”. Plans hadn’t been submitted for the work which began in September 2011. “Not only are the works substantial, but their effect with regard to stormwater run-off, water reticulation, sewage and the like is likely to have a large or potential impact on the area in general,” municipal building control officer Njabulo Ngwane said in his affidavit.
Lazelle Paolo, Mhlanga’s lawyer, confirmed on Friday that the building plans had not yet been approved. “We resubmitted documents in December, and have not yet heard anything from the council.”
The council had not replied to questions at the time of going to print on Friday.
A KwaDukuza council report last week stated that the issue over the building plans was still pending and that the court had ruled that the construction work could continue, as it was in an advanced stage of completion.
The developers were also instructed to allow responsible officials to inspect any building work on the properties at any reasonable time.
The council had requested the building plans be submitted on or before May 23 last year and plans were submitted on June 7.
They were disapproved on July 10.
A full hearing of the matter is still to be heard.
However, the council maintains that as the plans have not yet been approved, it’s classified as an illegal structure and cannot be occupied.