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Church sells 'paradise' due to a shortage of souls

26 May 2019 - 00:00 By BOBBY JORDAN

You can't buy your way into heaven. But buying your local church grounds will at least keep the clergy happy.
That's the case in Stellenbosch, where a Dutch Reformed church wants ratepayers to buy back a slice of vineyard it had hoped to turn into a place of worship.
The 9,000m² property in Paradyskloof, valued at R6.5m, is leased to a wine farm and adjoins an upmarket security estate. The church says it wants to dispose of the property because Stellenbosch is already oversubscribed with churches.
But the proposed sale has sparked dissent after an EFF councillor questioned how the church ended up with a vineyard in the first place.
On Tuesday, a mayoral committee agenda item about the proposed sale was withdrawn, but not before background documents were placed in the public domain.
These show that erf 13246 was acquired from the council in 1995 as part of a land swap.
In return for a slice of Paradyskloof, which was subsequently rezoned for religious worship, the church ceded two properties in Die Boord, closer to the town centre.
It remains unclear whether the church originally paid for the Die Boord property, which it received from the council in 1984.
Furthermore, deeds records show the original Die Boord property was much bigger and that the church subdivided it into 12 erven, nine of which it sold in the 1990s.Rev Monty Sahd, chair of the Stellenbosch-Welgelegen Dutch Reformed church, this week confirmed the proposed land deal but could not clarify the sale history, which predated his appointment."The initial thinking was to build a church there [in Paradyskloof], but due to changing factors over numerous years the situation changed. People just don't go to church any more," he said."The church decided that the property was no longer needed for bede-doeleindes [spiritual purposes] and that the town council should take transfer of the property and compensate the church as per the [original] agreement reached between the parties."The Stellenbosch town council decided to determine the current value of the two Die Boord erven in order to offer just compensation for the Paradyskloof property.But EFF councillor Derrick Hendrickse this week submitted a formal objection.He believes the council is under no obligation to buy back the Paradyskloof property because it originally gave the land to the church for free, for religious purposes and not for property speculation."They should rather give the land back for restitution - use it for integrated housing development," said Hendrickse...

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