Church may sell disputed Kaizer Chiefs land

The dusty soccer pitch where Kaizer Chiefs was formed in Phefeni, Soweto, in January 1970. / Thulani Mbele
The dusty soccer pitch where Kaizer Chiefs was formed in Phefeni, Soweto, in January 1970. / Thulani Mbele

A Soweto church is considering selling a piece of land on which Kaizer Chiefs trained in the 1970s after battling to get it developed due to resistance from residents.

Reverend Zachariah Mokgoebo of the Uniting Reformed Church in Phefeni said the idea of developing the 1.3ha of land on which the church has been built had brought so many problems for the church and turned the community it serves against it.

Last week, residents threatened to stop the renewed efforts to build bonded houses on the land where Chiefs was founded, arguing that their children will not have a place to train and host soccer matches. A local soccer team of grannies also uses the ground for training.

Phefeni residents have rejected two alternative grounds that were proposed, arguing that one was too far and the other not suitable. The land is situated across the road from Chiefs owner Kaizer Motaung's home.

Developer Cliff Becker told Sowetan he was ready to build 43 bonded houses following his agreement with the church. But the residents said they would fight the development with everything they have as the land had heritage value to them. Becker has been trying to develop the land for the past 14 years.

Mokgoebo said he was disappointed at the behaviour of the Phefeni residents as the church was part of the community.

"Their motives are hideous. If somebody has a property, what right do you have to decide what he does with it. This is a privately owned property," he said.

With so much resistance from residents against the development, Mokgoebo said the church would consider disposing of the asset. "We shall try to find a buyer who will buy the property and who will do something differently maybe.

"I'm meeting with my church council in two weeks. I think we should sell the land back to the government. We don't want and have never wanted to be seen as fighting the community."

He said the concept of developing the land started in the late 1980s when the church got a certain company to construct bonded houses in exchange for upgrading the church. The deal was signed and the company got the title deed.

The land was then rezoned to accommodate the church site and 43 houses in the 1990s.

The City of Joburg confirmed that the property was still privately owned but said it had not approved any plans to develop it in its system. This, however, only dates back to 2000, when the metropolitan city was formed.

Plans to develop the land dragged when the company which signed the deal with the church was liquidated and the church had to get a court order to reclaim its property. It finally succeeded in 2008 but it has struggled to get the construction off the ground.

Efforts to get comment from Motaung failed by time of print.

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