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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor