'casino pays R5000 rent'

Buddy Naidu

Buddy Naidu

The Eastern Cape Gambling Board yesterday granted the controversial Wild Coast Sun Casino a 10-year licence renewal.

The decision has now set the board and the winning bidder, Sun International, on a collision course with King Mpondombini Sigcau who has objected to how Sun International has historically been operating the casino.

The casino is three decades old and was started by casino magnate Sol Kerzner who was alleged to have paid R2million to former Transkei prime minister George Matanzima for exclusive gambling rights.

The current licence expires later this year therefore the leisure group had to reapply.

Sigcau claims that the Pondo community had been historically ripped off ever since the casino first opened and there were no spin-off benefits for the two million people in the area, most of whom still live in poverty.

He said a controversial 100-year lease agreement signed with the old Transkei meant that Sun International today only paid R60000 - or R5000 a month - for the pristine 660ha beachfront land.

He said the agreement also saw 103 families of the Umgungundlovu community being displaced - and they have yet to be compensated.

Yesterday a representative of the royal household, Gordon Ball, said the king's lawyers were hoping to see what conditions had been attached to the licence.

"The king will further consult with traditional structures as he raised serious objections about the renewal of the licence."

He said the king objected on the basis that a renewal would be "anti-competitive, financially prejudicial to the people of Pondoland and was cloaked in a bribery scandal".

He added that the king's main aim was to "ensure the indigenous people of Pondoland benefit".

"The gambling board have not answered many of our questions so we will see whether they have been tackled in the licence conditions."

It was "real estate robbery" that such a big casino still paid a lease of R60000 a year, said Ball.

He said a meeting had been scheduled this month between the king, Sun International and the board.

Acting chief executive of the board, Menzi Mbina, said the king's objections were "addressed in the overall licence conditions".

He said the signing of the lease was "outside of their jurisdiction" and was thus "not able to comment on the fairness or lack thereof".

Regarding the lack of financial spin-offs for the area he said "community empowerment must arise from the licence".

He said to this end Sun International had formed a partnership with the Mbizana Development Trust, listed as a shareholder, to effect this.