Ballito’s Muslims want a mosque. They get a bureaucratic brick wall instead
Zululand Islamic Society's three-year fight to secure a site has again and again been defeated by red tape
The first mosque planned for the swanky seaside town of Ballito has hit a hurdle, even before a single brick has been laid.
For three years, the Zululand Islamic Society battled to secure an appropriate site to erect a mosque in the KwaZulu-Natal north coast town to cater for Muslim residents of upmarket housing estates in Ballito, Zimbali, Simbithi Eco Estate, Brettenwood and other surrounding areas, who have had to travel up to 25km out of the area to conduct prayer.
Late last year, following a submission made to the ANC-led KwaDukuza Local Municipality, it approved in principle the sale of a portion of Townsend Park, an open space regularly used as a recreational spot by locals.
The society asked that it be allocated 4,000m² – valued at R3.6m – from the 15,259m² park.
However, the DA abstained from the vote on the basis that due process wasn’t followed.
Dean MacPherson, a DA MP for KwaDukuza, said the party had not opposed the council item on the proposed mosque at all.
“We were very clear that we support the freedom to practise religion.
“Because the site is open space and a council asset, it must be disposed of in terms of the local government Municipal Finance Management Act and local council policy.
“So any disposal of assets must be done in a manner that complies with such laws. On presentation of the item at council, we were unsure if indeed this had been done because the council could not produce the required documentation, and on that basis we had to abstain as we could not sufficiently apply our minds to the matter,” said MacPherson.
The DA shares residents’ concerns about the possible loss of green space.
Residents have also expressed concern about traffic congestion and noise levels that could emanate from the call to prayer, usually done over a loudspeaker.
All the society wants is to finally have a mosque for worshipers, who apart from the residents, also include workers and holidaymakers.
“There is an issue, where members of the public are saying they are unhappy because it has not been put to them yet,” said Ntuthuko Isa Khowene, the society’s spokesperson.
“This is not the first time that this matter went before council. It’s about three years now we have put an application for a worship site.
“There have been various sites that the council considered, but there were objections because those sites were required for other purposes.
“The council has taken a resolution to say in principle they approve, but there are still further processes to be followed. Public consultation still has to take place. We will be guided by the processes that need to be followed. There is a church across from the park; there is no traffic congestion.
“In our application, we specifically said because we understand that there are houses nearby, we are prepared not to use a loudspeaker. We would have a person standing outside the door and calling worshipers to prayer,” said Khowene.
He said the society had funds reserved in its trust fund account for the building of the mosque.
A concerned resident, who refused to be named, said people were upset because they had not been consulted.
“First of all, the park is in active use, and the extent of the modifications is unclear. Secondly, people are worried it will impact the green space and the traffic mainly.
“I think if people had been consulted and presented with a plan, it would have been a different story,” he said.
But municipal spokesperson Sipho Mkhize said the public would have an opportunity to comment on the proposal when the land in question, which is currently a passive open space, comes up for rezoning to a worship site.
“It is a reality that allowing for such a development shall redress current challenges faced by the Muslim community and also the spatial inequalities of the past.
“The decision by the council with regards to this property was guided in terms of section 14 of the local government Municipal Finance Management Act and resolved that the property is not reasonably needed for the provision of the minimum level of basic municipal services.
“The fair market value of the asset and economic and community value to be received in exchange for the property, the value to community being in the form of alienating the property for religious purposes,” said Mkhize.