Build us a university on Frankenwald, Alex businesses ask task team

An artist’s representation of the proposed Frankenwald Estate development, 31 July 2019. Picture: Supplied

The team should engage with Wits to stop it from selling the land for the development of commercial and retail spaces, the business grouping says.

The Greater Alexandra Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents more than 80 businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, has called on the inter-ministerial task team on service delivery for Alexandra township to build a university and technology hub on Frankenwald Estate, the vacant and vast piece of land near the township.

The 290-hectare piece of land, which was raised during the Human Rights Commission’s Alex inquiry as a possible solution for decongesting the township, was donated by British mining magnate Sir Alfred Beit in 1905 to be used for “education in perpetuity” through a deed of gift, and was later transferred to Wits University in 1987 by the Transvaal Provincial Administration to be zoned for educational and scientific research purposes.

Testifying before the commission last week, Gauteng human settlements executive committee member Lebogang Maile said his department was “finalising land development proposals, including acquisition and/or joint development for Frankenwald, Alex City, Linbro Park and Linksfield”.

The chamber’s Patrick Baloyi said: “We are calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa and his inter-ministerial task team to urgently intervene and build a university … on the land known as Frankenwald Estate.

“Alex is the biggest recipient of rural and international migration, so it absorbs a lot of people who are in desperate need of good-quality education. We do no not need shopping malls.”

Baloyi said the task team, which was appointed in April by Ramaphosa following the Alex Total Shutdown protests, should engage with Wits to stop it from selling the land for the development of commercial and retail spaces.

Earlier this year, The Citizen reported that Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib was exploring the possibility of selling the land for R1 billion to the City of Joburg.

According to Shirona Patel, head of communications at Wits, the university had also appointed a development consortium to develop the Frankenwald Estate as a mixed-use development, for housing and commercial buildings.

She said proceeds of the sale would be placed in a special long-term endowment for the benefit of poor students who qualify to study at Wits, but do not have the financial means to do so.

Education activist Rob Aveling said the Alexandra improvement crisis would not be resolved until the Frankenwald Estate issue was addressed.

“… Wits University [has held] on to Frankenwald … for over a hundred years without following the deed of gift conditions.”

The Gauteng department of human settlements said yesterday that the Frankenwald issue had been elevated to the task team, which comprises national, provincial and local government and various stakeholders.

Spokesperson Luzuko Pongoma said: “Because of the challenges that have been encountered in the area, detailed information and plans about the project will be communicated by all parties involve at a later stage.”

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