The Maharishi Development Project plans to erect a R20-billion, 108-storey building on a 270-hectare vacant piece of land in Frankenwald, adjacent to Alexandra in Gauteng.

The complex, which will house 50 000 people and provide 15 000 jobs, will be the tallest in the world, says director Peter Swan.

The architects who designed the Manhattan Twin Towers World Conference Centre will design the building.

The project will also have a one-square-kilometre landscaped and ecologically sensitive garden surrounding it.

Swan said the building would be a beacon of inspiration for the African century and the African Renaissance. The project had been discussed at local, provincial and national level and there had been great support for it.

"It will become a tourist attraction, thereby creating even more jobs," he said.

The project would make use of architecture which was in accordance with natural law, as opposed to the many "sick" buildings which were around, Swan added.

It would also serve as a natural link between Johannesburg International Airport and Pretoria.

A project involving organic agriculture would also be launched at the site, as well as the complete rehabilitation of the Jukskei River.

"We cannot have a project such as this with garbage flowing down a river," he said.

The land was recently sold by the University of the Witwatersrand to the controversial Maharishi order, an organisation that champions transcendental meditation.

It was destined for low-cost housing for Alexandra, but because of the soil's condition, was found to be too costly for construction.

Residents in neighbouring Kelvin and Buccleuch are up in arms over the proposal and are suspicious of the Maharishi order.

The Frankenwald Development Forum has accused Wits of selling the land in secret and of not consulting residents.

Greater Johannesburg Eastern Council ANC chief whip Mike Maile said on Wednesday that plans for the new building had not been submitted to the council yet, but the council had an open mind about new developments that enhanced the city.