By Andy Sambidge
EXCLUSIVE: Ruwaad chief remains upbeat over Amazulu deal despite political dispute.
A Dubai-based company behind a $4 billion development in South Africa says it is confident that the project will not be derailed amid a political row.
Ruwaad Holdings unveiled Amazulu World, a massive themed entertainment and mixed-use destination development on the north coast of Durban at a glittering ceremony in the emirate last month.
Bosses said the real estate, hospitality and tourism project on 16,500 hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal province would be the biggest development of its kind anywhere in the African continent.
The company even flew in the local Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Sibusiso Ndebele, to endorse the mega project and a memorandum of understanding was signed during the visit.
But on Thursday, it emerged that the local Macambini community, led by Khayelihle Mathaba, was opposed to Ruwaad's plans and had reserved part of the proposed development site for another massive project led by another Dubai-based company, the Bukhatir Group.
The multi-billion dollar scheme would be known as the Macambini Sports City, a sports city to be built by the Bukhatir Group's property arm Sport Cities International, featuring high-rise residential and commercial towers, a shopping mall, a five-star hotel, a signature golf course, a multi-purpose stadium and other social amenities. Construction is expected to start in 18 months.
Now, the Bukhatir scheme and the Ruwaad proposals are facing the prospect of competing for the same development site but Ruwaad group CEO Hayan Merchant denied that Amazulu World was at risk.
In an exclusive statement to Arabian Business, Merchant said: "We would like to categorically announce to all stakeholders that Amazulu World is still proceeding as planned and has the blessings of all arms of the government including the local, provincial and national government.
"Ruwaad are moving swiftly to complete the social and community participation procedures for the project, in order to obtain the approvals required from the South African government, necessary to begin the project’s construction. The project is scheduled to be built in multiple phases over a period of 25 years.
"We remain committed to developing this project which we believe will have huge benefits for the local community, the Kwazulu-Natal province and South Africa."
The Ruwaad project would also include a number of hotels, resorts and spas, a marina, a variety of residential offerings, community facilities, and nature reserves.
Initial studies indicate that Amazulu World will create more than 200,000 new jobs, and will increase tourism to the region by almost 40 percent through attracting millions of tourists.
But Sport Cities International chief executive Zahid Noorani, quoted in South African media reports, said: "We aim to improve the quality of life for the people of Macambini through our sports academies and grass-roots programmes."
Last week, crowds of people from Macambini took to the streets, burning tyres and disrupting traffic during a protest against the Ruwaad development.