Residents say businessman ‘to build mall and upmarket suburb’
By Boitumelo Koloi and Limpho Sello
MASERU — The longstanding Ha Hoohlo land dispute took a shocking twist this week after it emerged Ashraf Abubaker — the businessman at the centre of the conflict — is reportedly planning to purchase a large portion of the informal settlement and upgrade it into an exclusive “Indian” suburb with a trendy shopping centre.
Last month, Abubaker made headlines after evicting six families from their rented homes in Ha Hoohlo, and flattened the houses with bulldozers.
The businessman claimed he had bought the site on which the houses were constructed through public auction.
However, the Lesotho Times heard this week that Abubaker’s “agents” have been approaching Ha Hoohlo residents offering to purchase their sites.
The mediators are reportedly bragging that the businessman intends to build an upmarket suburb and a mall in the area, which is just a stone’s throw away from the South African border.
“We have heard that his plans are to construct a shopping mall with an upmarket residential suburb, as well as build a big yard along the railway line nearby, where he would be selling vehicles imported from abroad, ” said a local villager, who said he was privy to the “project”.
Another Ha Hoohlo resident, who only gave his name as Matjama, claimed he had been approached by the “agent” and offered a substantial amount of cash for his land.
“Abubaker has been sending his agents to plead with us to sell him our property.
“Just recently, we were approached by a fellow villager, who said he had been sent by Abubaker to come and negotiate with us on his behalf, for our property. It appears the man has bigger plans for this area, and if he has his way, we will all be out of this place.”
Approached for a comment yesterday afternoon, Abubaker said he had no time to discuss the matter with the media, adding when the time was right, he would call a press conference “to outline everything regarding the matter”.
He continued: “I am very busy; I have no time to discuss this right now. When the time is right, we will call a press conference to address all your concerns on this issue.”
Pressed further, the businessman, who now sounded annoyed, said he was under no obligation to talk to the media “especially since you people are already writing a lot of lies in your newspapers.
“We will need to properly sit down and talk this issue fully, so that I can even show you the relevant documentation, but right now I don’t have that time.
“You people are writing a lot of lies to promote the sales of your product,” Abubaker charged, before terminating the call.