February 17 2005 at 12:42PM
By Eleanor Momberg
Sensitive conservation land surrounding the well-known Smuts Koppie in Irene was auctioned off on Wednesday for R7,7-million.
The land adjoins three sides of the koppie. It stretches from the so-called Big House on one side to Sesmylspruit on the other.
Property developer C van der Colff was believed to have been the highest bidder at the auction, held at the St George's Hotel.
Pieter Geldenhuys of Auction Alliance said the property advertised for sale earlier had been sub-divided to exclude the koppie itself.
According to an Auction Alliance advertisement published in the Pretoria News on January 28, the "famous General Jan Smuts Heritage" blue-chip development land up for sale comprised the 32,1ha of undeveloped land near Cornwall Hill, Irene Glen Estate extensions nine and 10, "known as the Smuts Koppie".
The advertisement indicated the area had been zoned for agricultural use, and boasted "enormous potential for residential development".
The koppie, which was on a portion of the farm Doornkloof, formed part of the home of former Union of South Africa prime minister Jan Smuts.
The property was sold on behalf of the Smuts family. The portion of Doornkloof farm auctioned belonged to the estate of Kitty Smuts and five surviving children. Kitty, who died in 2004, was wife to Japie, one of General Smuts's sons.
The sale of the land roused concern among conservationists as it incorporated land listed as "irreplaceable sites for conservation" by the Gauteng department of agriculture, conservation and environment (GDACE).
According to a GDACE sensitivity map, published on the Internet, nine categories of conservation concern were listed. These were endangered species of animals and plants, including rare dolomite-based Bakenveld Grassland and orchids, as well as a wetland and ridges.
Bob Dehning, of the Gauteng Conservancy Association, said they would be watching developments in the area "like a hawk" as the Smuts House Museum, hiking trail and the top of the koppie was a conservation area.
"As soon as any Environmental Impact Assessment application hits the table we will become aware of it and we will ensure that GDACE knows of it and acts."
Dehning emphasised the land in question was "very, very valuable" from a conservation point of view.
There were bidders from as far afield as the Eastern Cape and Australia.
Geldenhuys said he did not know what the developer would do with the land.
Van der Colff could not be reached for comment.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on February 17, 2005
SEE MAP BELOW: The thin blue line is a very approximate outline of the property that was sold on behalf of the Smuts family. The land adjoins three sides of the koppie. It stretches from the Big House on one side to Sesmylspruit on the other. The outer thin red line is an approximate outline of the Smuts Koppie conservation area.