Image: Brian Spurr

The battle over planning approval for an estimated R200 million development in Ballito by an alleged business associate and former helicopter pilot of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe raged on in the Durban High Court this week.

This followed the High Court granting an interim order by consent to KwaDukuza Municipality in which the developer agreed not to occupy any of the new structures on the properties, to submit building plans, to allow access to building inspectors and to demolish any further work done on the properties should plans not be approved or opposition to the application fail. The court order read that it granted the order “as prayed” but it has emerged that this did not include an interdict asking them to stop work immediately.

The municipality, however, had issued two stop-work orders to project manager Tozamile Hogana, the third respondent in the matter. The other respondents are Straightprops 92, Formate (Pty) Ltd and Stefanutti Construction.

Robert Mhlanga, sole director of SalesTalk403 and Formate (Pty) Ltd, which owns the two plots of land next to Zimbali, this week lodged a counter-application and his responding papers, in which he claims that the municipality had “obstructed” and “frustrated” the developer in preventing his architect Ewald Plekker from lodging building plans.

He said one of the properties was agricultural land for which no building plans were legally required.

Municipality delays ‘act of bad faith’ -Mhlanga

Mhlanga lashed out at the Saturday Star this week after we named him as the mystery man behind the development, and a close associate of Robert Mugabe.

In his counter-application Mhlanga asked the court to order the municipality to approve or refuse approval of the plans that have since been submitted for approval via a covering letter from his attorneys, after it allegedly refused to accept plans over the counter.

Mhlanga said the municipality had sent him a letter demanding “all planning approval rights for the property, letters of approval from the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, a letter of approval from the Department of Agriculture and a letter of approval from the Department of Transport” which it said was required before building plans could be submitted.

Mhlanga said the plans submission fee of R19 368.87 had been paid on May 14 but the municipality repeatedly refused to accept the plans.

He said his lawyer then sent a letter of complaint to the municipality on May 23 pointing out that the plans submission met all the requirements of the National Building Regulations.

“To insist on further documentation before it would even accept the submission of the plans… was regarded as an act of bad faith and an attempt by the applicant (KwaDukuza Municipality) to frustrate the terms of the court order,” Mhlanga said.

Mhlanga said the municipality was “misguided” in contending that it was a “major development” because the building works did not cover the entire properties.

He said although plans had now been submitted, the municipality had refused to consider or approve them until he had provided a site plan and approval letters from the various government departments.

He said the municipality was acting “illegally” and not according to the National Building Regulations.

In his answering affidavit to the municipality’s initial application for an order to stop work, Mhlanga said he was the sole director and shareholder of SalesTalk403 (Pty) Ltd, which had acquired Straightprops 92, which owned one of the properties.

“My intention was to develop the two properties as a private eco-sensitive residence,” Mhlanga said.

He said the existing house on the Straightprops 92 property had been built in about 2004 and the new features included “a new pond and gazebo structure”, “the guardhouse” and “a small changeroom incorporating ablutions”.

He said on the second property new features included “a gatehouse, certain driveways, a new pond which comprises a large water feature together with a gazebo comprising various rooms, which together are intended to function as an entertainment/recreational area”.

“The investigations conducted by me and the first respondent’s legal representatives led us to conclude that at the time of the construction of the existing dwelling… the land in question comprised agricultural land for which no plans were required by the local authority at the time,” Mhlanga said.

However, he said that the Straightprops property had since come to fall within the ambit of the town planning scheme.

“All improvements and structures that have been erected have, however, been professionally engineered and overseen and based on professional advice at the outset and during construction do not require environmental authorisation or the approval of any other authority for their erection,” Mhlanga said.

He added that the existing house had not been “extensively renovated and rebuilt” and that there was no underground construction, as suggested by the municipality.

“There is a slope on the property in question.

“Cut into the slope is a room which is built for the purposes of housing security monitors and security personnel.

“This is depicted on the building plan and on the site plan.”

This reportedly has a grassed roof to blend in with the surroundings.

“There are no below-ground works not depicted on the plan provided. There is a basement level depicted on the building plans submitted,” Mhlanga said.

“It has never been the intention to flout any applicable law,” Mhlanga said.

The Saturday Star tried twice this week to secure interview with Mhlanga. -Saturday Star

Click below to view the official documents: