86 land claimants returning to Bishopscourt

Recently, Land Minister Gugile Nkwinti said that 90% of land claims are settled financially.

He expressed unhappiness because he wants claimants to benefit from land that appreciates in value and creates generational wealth. But it requires specific expertise and costs money to develop land, especially urban land. Without enough cash, access to funding and the experience and ability to unlock value from land, land can be a become a liability for claimants.

To help resolve this problem, property development company, Bethel Partners, is partnering with land claimants in four projects in Cape Town, to assist claimants in developing their land and to restore their wealth lost through apartheid’s land dispossession.

The company was started in 2015 by property developer Richard Glass and serial entrepreneur Daniel Fillippi, and on November 23, Bethel Partners celebrated with the Protea Village Claimants in Bishopscourt, one of Cape Town’s wealthiest suburbs. Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, was the main speaker at the occasion.

“In Protea Village, 86 members of the community have been awarded 12.3 ha of land in Bishopscourt. Bethel Partners has been working with the Protea Village community over the last two years to create a sustainable and commercially viable business model. The joint venture will enable them to return to live where their parents and grandparents did and will obtain restitution.,” says Glass.

“After being forcibly removed over 50 years ago, 86-families will return to live in Bishopscourt. The community members want their homes and wealth to be restored and for their children and grandchildren to have access to good schools. We are privileged to be working with the Protea Village community as we implement this vision and play our small part in building community in Cape Town.”

In 2008, the founders of Bethel Partners first started working with communities that had been awarded land through restitution when they partnered with the Richmond Park community to develop 83.5 ha of land in Milnerton.

The community’s land will be developed, for their long-term financial benefit, and will comprise of 300 000m2 of mixed-use retail, industrial and distribution space. Bethel Partners is working on the Richmond Park project in association with partners Atterbury and the R3 billion project recently attracted investment from Old Mutual Property.

“Besides the financial benefits of the project to the Richmond Park community we are really pleased that we have been able to build community through a number of tertiary education bursaries, skills development and employment opportunities that have been created through the project thus far,” says Filippi.

“To restore that which was lost and to create wealth from land, the land needs to be developed. When claimants receive the urban land, they may have some money to put in some basic services, but there is usually not enough to build meaningful structures and install roads, electricity and water.

“Bethel Partners’ mission is “building community” by developing properties with claimant communities. We do this by creating and implementing business models that generate funds to develop the property and create long-term income,” says Filippi.

The first thing Bethel Partners do when working with communities is to build trust with the community and to hear what the community members want so as to understand their vision for development of their land.

“Bethel Partners spent two years working with the Protea Village community to create a model that works for the community and is commercially viable,” says Dave Child, a partner at Bethel.

“We work closely with communities to understand how we can create a commercially viable development on their land to provide sufficient funds to enable them to do so.”

To unlock the value of the Bishopscourt land, Bethel Partners and the Protea Village community have begun the process to obtain the land-use rights for the development. This entails frequent engagement with the Fernwood and Bishopscourt communities, who are mostly very supportive of the proposed restitution.

Says Filippi: “Interests should be seen to be aligned. The Protea Village, Fernwood and Bishopscourt communities want to enjoy living together in their neighbourhood and they want their investment in their properties to grow in value. With this in mind Bethel Partners, with the Protea Village community, is developing housing for the community that is appropriate for the Bishopscourt and Fernwood residential areas.

“Bethel Partners has a vision to use its resources and experience to play its part in restoring and building integrated communities in South Africa and to see claimant communities create generational wealth through property ownership.”