In South Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry has given South African director Anant Singh’s US$400 million, 20-year-in-the-making investment into a film studio priority.
According to media reports, the studio was to have been built on the old Natal Command site on the Durban beachfront and has been delayed for two decades by court battles and red tape regarding approval for the development.
It was one of several issues raised at a meeting with Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel hosted by the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently and attended by about 200 business people.
Patel said he was “pleased” that he had been “so persistent in the face of red tape” to attempt to develop the Durban studio.
“Let’s back the project to get that film facility off the ground as soon as possible because it’s not only the direct jobs it creates; it is also how Durban can land big movies, bring huge amounts of money, and illustrate the city to the world. We all know Miami from the movies, and we can turn Durban into that,” he said.
He said it would also allow people to tell their cultural stories, as the drama series Shaka Ilembe was already doing.
Singh purchased the 21-hectare Natal Command site through his company, Rinaldo Investments, in 2003. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said at the time that it would vacate the property by 2009, but Giant Concerts owner Sunny Gayadin challenged the deal in court.
The matter dragged through the courts for almost ten years before the constitutional court ruled that Gayadin had no legal standing to apply.
According to court papers, the city bought the land in 1855 but donated it to the central government for military purposes in 1937, on the condition that if it were not needed for military purposes, ownership would transfer back to the city.
In 2017, the SANDF attempted to lay claim to the property, saying it would need it in future to develop accommodation for its members combating piracy and other criminal activity in the Mozambique channel.
Singh then filed and won his application in the Durban High Court in 2021 when Judge Mahendra Chetty ordered that the property be transferred to the city within 30 days, after which it must be transferred to Rinaldo.
Kaunda said the city would take action to remove the red tape for the film studio development.