'Land grab' to help Coega
Feb 19 2010 08:37 Philip de Bruin
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Cape Town - On Thursday the multibillion-rand Coega Development Zone (CDZ) received a massive boost in the Appeal Court when it was ruled that valuable property in the heart of the Coega zone could be expropriated.
As far back as 2000 a tug-of-war had developed between the owner of the 524ha property, the companies Offit Enterprises and Offit Farming Enterprises, and the CDZ.
At that time the value of the land, described in court papers as "prime freehold", was estimated at about R2.2m.
The owners claimed that the land had been worth R40m in 2007.
The CDZ is a very large and important government initiative to develop a deep-water harbour it Coega, among other things.
Judges of appeal L Harms, C Lewis, A Maya, N Hurt and M Wallis said that the advantage of the CDZ to the whole country and the Eastern Cape in particular, where poverty and unemployment are the order of the day, cannot be disputed.
At one stage of the negotiations, which have never proceeded smoothly, the CDZ warned the owners that it would ask the Minister of Trade & Industry to expropriate the land.
The two Offit companies objected to possible expropriation. They argued that the threat of expropriation was seriously damaging the value of the property and that the CDZ was unable to crystallise its application for expropriation.
They argued that the expropriation should be totally prohibited.
The five judges however rejected the companies' argument.
Firstly, they said, there was no doubt that any expropriation in this case application was in the national interest.
In addition, the CDZ was not a private project, which meant that the CDZ was entitled to ask the minister to expropriate the property.
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