Despite its remote location, Kathu in the Northern Cape is considered to be one of the fastest growing towns in the province.
Host to the annual Kalahari Classic and the second stop on the winter leg of the Vodacom Southern African Tour, Kathu's golf course is rated as one of the top 20 golf courses in the country.
This is possibly due to it being the iron capital of the Northern Cape, home to one of the five largest open-cast iron ore mines in the world. The town is situated in the middle of Kalahari Desert, equidistant between Upington and Vryburg, about three hours away from Kimberley. Some of the world's longest ore trains travel through harsh territory on the Sishen-Saldanha railway to offload their cargo at Saldanha Bay.
Translated the name Kathu means ‘town under the trees’ due to the camel thorn forest in the region. The camel thorn tree (Acacia erioloba) forest is one of only two in the world, with the other situated between Mariental and Reboboth in Namibia. The forest provides the area with around 4 000 hectares of trees and, due to its uniqueness, was declared a State Forest in the early 1920s. It was then registered as a Natural Heritage Site in 1995. Although protected, the forest lies mainly on privately owned farms and relies mostly on the goodwill of residents and visitors to assist with protecting the trees.
Aside from the mining activity and forest, Kathu is home to significant Stone Age sites that are under ongoing archaeological research. The sites are significant in that possibly the earliest stone-tipped spears were found in the area and date back some 500 000 years.
Today the town has a number of recreational activities for the residents and it has one of the country’s most beautiful golf courses with part of the course lying within the forest on the edge of the desert. Host to the annual Kalahari Classic and the second stop on the winter leg of the Vodacom Southern African Tour, the course is rated as one of the top 20 golf courses in the country.
Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says while a large majority of the current homeowners are between 36 and 49 years old (40.47 percent), it is the younger generation of home buyers that are currently the most active in the area. He notes that around 52.19 percent of recent home buyers were between 18 and 35 years old and this demographic was responsible for the highest percentage of recent sellers (34.67 percent).
Goslett says that property prices are performing well and according to Lightstone data, from 2004 up until the height of the boom, property prices saw a steady increase, dipping in 2008. However, in 2009 property prices recovered and strengthened in 2010. Between 2010 and 2012 prices remained stable with a freehold home costing around R400 000. However, Goslett says that this year the price of a freehold home reached a record high of R593 000.
Goslett says in terms of property transactions, Kathu saw little effect from the tough economic conditions after 2008. While sales figures cooled off between 2008 and 2011, the volumes of properties sold were higher than the numbers seen between 2004 and 2007. In 2012, a record number of sales were concluded, with 359 properties sold.
According to Goslett, nearly all the property sold between July 2012 and June 2013 was priced below R800 000. He notes that around 46.8 percent of properties sold were those priced between R400 000 and R800 000, while 40.8 percent were priced below R400 000. Properties that fell within the R800 000 to R1.5 million category represented 9.7 percent of the area’s sales, while properties priced between R1.5 million and R3 million accounted for just 2.4 percent. Only 0.3 percent of properties sold during this period were sold for over R3 million.