Vlei mall developer accused of fraud

Cape Times – 6th March 2013
Melanie Gosling
Environment Writer 

RESIDENTS have laid a charge of fraud against individuals involved in the controversial shopping mall planned to be built at Princess Vlei.

Members of the Princess Vlei Forum, a group opposed to the planned shopping mall and taxi rank to be built on public land, said the developers had “misrepresented themselves” on two occasions, and said there were serious irregularities in the development.

Princess Vlei has been a popular recreation spot on the Cape Flats for generations, particularly with residents from poorer areas neighbouring the green lung.

The forum said the gravity of the matter, coupled with the authorities’ apparent reluctance to take the matter seriously, led forum member Kelvin Cochrane to lodge a complaint of fraud.

“We find it extraordinary that the processes around this development are continuing, despite not only the vociferous and passionate opposition to this development, especially within the local community, but also in the light of the serious irregularities that we have uncovered,” the forum stated.

The fraud complaint is the latest episode in the controversy that has surrounded the proposed mall – the result of an unsolicited bid to the city council many years ago.

The essence of the forum’s complaint is that the city gave rezoning rights, which are needed before the mall can be built, to Insight Property Developers Cape. That company ceased to exist in 2010 when it was deregistered. The forum says the rezoning rights lapsed when the company ceased to exist, as these rights cannot be transferred.

However, the forum said a separate company wrote to the Western Cape Environment Affairs and Development Planning Department, asking for a five-year extension of the validity of the rezoning period.

The forum said Anton Bredell, the MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, had therefore been dealing with an appeal from “an individual who is the director of a separate company”, who was not a director of the original bid company.

“The evidence suggests that this individual had no authority to lodge these appeals,” the forum said.

The other issue concerns the environmental consultants appointed by the city to carry out the environmental impact assessment (EIA) prior to the shopping mall development. The National Environmental Management Act states that a person who compiles an EIA must be independent and “have no business, financial or personal interest” in the proposed project. The law requires EIA practitioners to sign a declaration of independence.

The forum said directors of Insight Property Developers Cape were also directors of the consulting company, Tshukudu Environmental Services, which did the EIA.

“The declaration made no mention of their affiliation to the bid company,” it said.

The EIA company and the provincial government had not responded to requests for comment by late yesterday.

Garreth Bloor, the mayoral committee member for economic, environmental and spatial planning, said yesterday: “The city is aware of an investigation by the National Prosecuting Authority into alleged corruption in the original EIA process. The city will monitor developments.”

The police had not replied to queries on the status of the fraud charge by late yesterday.


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