Lobby group tackles ‘apartheid spatial planning’

(This article was published on 7 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Premier Helen Zille’s claims that the Western Cape government spent close to R2-billion on housing has fallen on deaf ears as a local lobby group claims she has failed her “obligation to reverse apartheid city planning”.

Lobby group Reclaim the City (RTC) yesterday repeated its condemnation of Zille’s provincial government’s plans to sell prime land in and around central Cape Town to private developers.

RTC launched in February to oppose the provincial government’s plans to sell four state-owned sites. Last month it launched legal opposition with the help of the non-profit Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre to prevent a prime public land sale.

In a department of transport and public works brochure the province offers “four prime opportunities for investors”.

These are the defunct Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point, Helen Bowden Nurses Home near the Cape Town Stadium, Top Yard near Parliament, and the Alfred Street Complex in Green Point.

On Thursday, RTC won a court battle against the provincial government and Zille to stop the Tafelberg sale as it wants this property used for affordable housing.

The Western Cape High Court ruled the provincial government should conduct a 21-day public participation process on how the land should be used.

The province’s current plans to sell the land have also been put on hold. Province would need to re-advertise the Tafelberg sale within 10 days of the court ruling.

The Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School had offered R135-million to buy the property.

RTC spokesman Kopano Maroga said yesterday their court victory “extends well beyond the campaign for the development of affordable housing on Tafelberg in particular”.

“The upcoming (21-day) objections period has the potential to set a precedent for genuine public participation in decisions about the disposal and use of state land,” he said.

“This process must be closely monitored to ensure that the provincial cabinet and the premier gives due weight to the voices of ordinary people, especially the poor and working class black residents of Cape Town, before deciding on whether or not to sell Tafelberg.”

Maroga said the other three sites up for “disposal” are “key to government fulfilling its obligation to reverse apartheid city planning”.

“The province cannot sell these sites to generate cash flow. State land is a finite resource with immense social value that cannot be measured in monetary terms.

“The province must use the sites to develop affordable housing and to bring working class black and coloured people back into the inner city, from where they were excluded during apartheid and from where they are currently being priced out.

“What happens with Tafelberg will be a test for government and for all of us to prove that public participation can influence decisions about the future and use of public land.”

After the court’s ruling, Zille said in her weekly Inside Government newsletter on Thursday that officials would remain “committed to ensuring that anyone who seeks an opportunity for comment should be able to have it taken into account”.

Zille said the provincial government would then make a “rational decision about how best to utilise its assets to the best advantage of citizens”.

According to the court’s ruling, the provincial government would have one month to decide if it would continue with the Tafelberg sale or not.

Zille said the province sold the Tafelberg “building and land for revamping as an independent school”.

Zille addressed the lobby group’s concerns, saying under her watch last year the provincial government delivered “nearly 18 000 housing opportunities”. She did not state where those houses were located.

“We understand the challenges of overcoming the legacy of apartheid spatial planning in Cape Town. It is a priority for us to redress this,” added Zille.

The transport and public works department yesterday said “no decision has been taken” in relation the remaining three contested sites advertised for investors.

“Claims that the provincial government wants to sell or dispose of these sites, and that they are ‘in the pipeline for disposal’ are false,” it said.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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