Church outraged by City’s ‘unaffordable’ development charge

Manenberg residents managed to turn this once neglected piece of land into what is today known as the Harvest Time Pentecostal Church of South Africa.

Manenberg residents managed to turn this once neglected piece of land into what is today known as the Harvest Time Pentecostal Church of South Africa.

Published Feb 29, 2024


When Manenberg residents joined hands to turn around what was a dumping site into a place of hope in a church, little did they know it would result in them being slapped with thousands of rand in development fees for the property.

The neglected site had also been a place where gang shootings and crimes were committed.

“I have lived here for over 20 years,” said resident and member of Harvest Time Pentecostal Church of South Africa, Clive Maart.

“That field was a dump, it was for crime and shooting. Through the grace of God, since the church was built, it has been quiet. No one took notice when it was just an open field.

The church brings hope and is a light for Manenberg. The church also distributes food and other goods it gets through donation, it makes a big difference because people are struggling.”

Church leader, pastor James Manuel, said they had been present in the community for decades and had initially held church services in a local school.

“We then saw the potential in this dumping site that was neglected. We love this community, so we decided to cleanse the site both spiritually and physically. We cleaned it with our own hands, we prayed and we put up a structure.

“Over the years, through hard work and fund-raising, the church members worked together to raise the money to buy the property from the City.

“We didn’t know about development fees. Only after we bought the plot, we found out the transfer could not be completed until we paid the development fees,” Manuel said.

Given high rates of unemployment and poverty, the church said they just could not afford the development fees and had made a case to the City numerous times.

Manuel said the initial amount for development fees was about R61 000, which they could not afford, so they approached the City requesting a waiver.

“For two years we were sent from pillar to post. Then last year we were informed the amount was now over R250 000, almost four times higher than when we approached them for help.”

The City then at council decided on a partial waiver, but not against the initial amount of some R61 000 the church said it had queried – instead, on the amount which had almost quadrupled.

The church went back to the City, explaining that they still could not afford the money.

The City said the church occupied a portion of the erf and its use of the property was not in compliance with the property’s applicable zoning, with one of the conditions of the rezoning being a development charge (DC) amounting to R254 349.22.

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said: “The church approached the City with a request to waive the DCs and, taking into account the motivating factors submitted by the church, council granted a 70% discount of the development charges.

“The City also sold the property to the church at a 75% discount. In terms of the further approvals, the church was also responsible for paying the rezoning and subdivision costs, but approached the City once more claiming that they could not afford it.

“As a result, the City undertook the subdivision and rezoning process at its own costs.”

Mayco member for economic growth James Vos said the budget for concessions they provided to organisations for development contributions was R500 000 a year.

“Evaluation factors to be considered include: NGO/NPO’s financial standing; social value-add of the NGO/NPO’s business plan or strategy; motivation for the subsidy required by an NGO/NPO; availability of the budget; volume of requests received; value of the bulk contributions and single or multipurpose use property.

“Development charges cover the cost of external engineering services.

This includes bulk and link infrastructure for water, sewerage, roads, transport, stormwater and solid waste outside the development boundary, and which directly serves the development.”

On whether Manenberg had received any concessions in the last two financial years, he said “not to our knowledge”. On how the amount had increased drastically from when the church had first engaged the City for a waiver, the City said: “The development charges are calculated based on the final application submitted to the City. General enquiries made without the actual land use parameters do not provide enough information for the City to determine an exact amount.”

Cape Times