No room on mountain for angry villagers

Protests as wealthy foreigners gather at auction for South African landmark

Anyone with a spare million and a desire to name a mountain after themselves should look elsewhere, warn campaigners who are opposed to today's planned sale of a landmark of the South African coastline.

Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates are understood to be interested in buying the Sentinel, a spectacular 1,020-foot mountain that marks the entrance to Hout Bay fishing port. They have until noon today to place their offers in a closed bids process that was introduced after violent protests forced the cancellation of an auction two weeks ago.

"If a private buyer comes in and we are not consulted, they can expect war," said Donovan van der Heyden, 37, a community leader for the 8,000 impoverished residents of the Hangberg quarter at the foot of the peak.

On 15 July, 200 angry Hangberg residents marched on the sedate Chapman's Peak Hotel in Hout Bay, where the auction was supposed to take place. But as police met stone-throwing protesters with rubber bullets, no prospective buyer was willing to open the bidding process.

The largely "coloured" (mixed-race) community lives in cramped, unsanitary conditions alongside the land for sale. It is calling for a compulsory purchase by the South African National Parks. Mr Van der Heyden said: "We are told we cannot move further up the mountain but we see rich foreigners being given unbridled freedom to build luxury houses and lodges higher and higher up the mountains."

Situated 12 miles south of Cape Town, the fishing port of Hout Bay is beloved of tourists. During the European winter, thousands of expatriots – especially Britons – settle into second homes in the bay.

In the port, two fish factories have closed in the past two years, while restrictive fishing quotas have put several trawlers out of business. The Hangberg community, wedded to its fishing traditions, remains locked in poverty, and alcoholism and drugs dominate many lives. "Unemployment is rising," said Mr Van der Heyden, who is the manager of a local garden centre. "You find two or three families living in shacks along the wall of one bungalow. The rain washes off the mountain and we have rivers running through our homes," he added.

Auctioneer Shlomo Bitton said bids deposited today with his company, Julius Buchinsky, would be considered by the seller at a later date. "The 10-hectare piece of land has been in private hands since 1901. Nobody lives on the land and the buyer will have to apply for development permission.

"If it is granted, it will be limited to one house of 500 square metres, plus labourers' cottages. This is a unique opportunity for a buyer to name a mountain after themselves. Such opportunities are very rare."

The sellers, a private consortium called G&R Marine, bought the mountain in 2003 for 60,000 rand. They now hope to raise R12m (£900,000) from the sale. But South African National Parks are reported to have offered only R500,000.

Mr Bitton said that the best solution to the conflict would be for "someone to buy the mountain and do a 'white knight gesture' by handing it to the community". Others suggest the site, which has spectacular views, would be suitable for eco-tourism, including walks and whale watching.

But Mr Van der Heyden said that the community has now grown tired of gestures. "We are looking for empowerment through ownership, not just jobs on an eco-tourism scheme," he said.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
peopleActress tells men: 'It's your issue too'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam