Mandela filmmaker Anant Singh's $390m Durban film studio regains momentum

Singh purchased the 21 hectare Natal Command site through his company, Rinaldo Investments, for R15m in 2003

By Priyanca Rajput 4 Sep 2023

Mandela filmmaker Anant Singh's $390m Durban film studio regains momentum
The Weinstein Company

South African filmmaker Anant Singh’s R7.5bn investment into a film studio in Durban is gaining traction after a twenty-year gestation period.

Development has now been prioritised for the eThekwini metro and the department of trade and industry, according to local outlet Mail&Guardian.

The Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom filmmaker planned to build the studio on the old Natal Command site on the Durban beachfront, but was delayed for two decades owing to court battles and bureaucracy regarding approval for the development.

It was one of several issues raised at last Monday's meeting with minister of Trade, Industry and Competition that Ebrahim Patel hosted by the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and attended by about 200 business people. 

Singh purchased the 21 hectare Natal Command site through his company, Rinaldo Investments, for R15m 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, claiming the land was worth at least R100m.  

In the council meeting, Patel spoke about the strong interest global business investors had shown in the country during the Brics summit last week. However, Singh raised concerns about the glacial pace of development in eThekwini municipality.  

“As a son of this city and province, I have always tried to develop, which we are very excited about, and we are meeting with the catalytic projects [a unit in eThekwini municipality] tomorrow but things move slower than anywhere else […] we need pace,” Singh told Patel.

The outlet reports that other business leaders such as exporters and tourism operators raised concerns about electricity security, Transnet’s port congestion and poor rail services. As well concerns about the delay in rebuilding the city following the April 2022 floods, claiming over 450 lives. 

Patel said he would facilitate a meeting between Durban business leaders and Transnet to discuss what the government was planning regarding transport and logistics, so that business could “fill the gaps” regarding any additional issues that need to be tackled.

In response to Singh’s grievances, Patel said he was “pleased” that he had been “so persistent in the face of red tape” to attempt to develop the Durban studio.

“The city, the mayor is here, the province is here, 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 alone that it creates, it is also the way in which Durban can land big movies and 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.

Referencing the drama series Shaka Ilembe, he added it would also allow people to "tell their cultural stories".

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