Province sells Tafelberg site despite protests

Reclaim The City supporters express their disappointment after Provincial Cabinets decision to go ahead with the sale of the contested Tafelberg site.

We will be back in our numbers – this was the message from Reclaim The City supporters after Provincial Cabinet decided to sell the contested Tafelberg site in Sea Point.

Provincial Cabinet made the announcement on Wednesday March 22 despite a campaign to use the land, which was owned by the Department of Public Works, as a location for affordable housing. Instead cabinet said they had prioritised the Woodstock Hospital site and the Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Granger Bay as sites for affordable housing.

After the Department of Public Works sold the site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million, Reclaim The City and Ndifuna Ukwazi blocked the sale in May last year after a high court settlement, arguing that the public participation process was not followed properly.

In November last year the Western Cape Government released a feasibility study on affordable housing at the site and received submissions both for and against it.

Reclaim The City supporters expressed their disappointment at Wednesday’s decision by holding a protest at the provincial legislature. Reclaim The City spokesperson Elizabeth Gqoboka, said they were disappointed but would be back. “We are not going to leave matters like this and we have decided from here that we are going to take further steps.”

She added that there would be a meeting with campaign members soon that would decide the way forward. “We are going to mobilise the people to come together. I cannot speak on their behalf because they are not here but we are not happy with the outcome. They (Province) knew what the the people in Sea Point and the Western Cape were going through. It is the land that is there that could be used to accommodate the working class people. Now they are trying to get out of what they put themselves in and dominate us but we are not going to leave it like that. We are going to come back with more numbers.”

Isa Jacobson, of the Sea Point for All group, said she was extremely disappointed with the decision. “They had an amazing opportunity and they have failed the people who need it the most,”

A Reclaim The City press statement said: “The Western Cape Provincial Cabinet’s decision to sell the Tafelberg site to the Phyllis Jowell Day School is unjust and an insult to black and coloured working class people throughout Cape Town – who are the vast majority of residents in our city. With this decision, Premier Helen Zille’s government has missed a critical opportunity to commit to build affordable housing in the Cape Town inner-city. They have laid bare their intention to capitalise from our public assets at all costs, in the face of considerable public opposition. They have shown a deep contempt for the principle of using public land to reverse apartheid spatial planning.”

“We will never accept the stripping of our well-located public land – land that could and should be used for affordable housing – to private entities. We are planning a robust response, after consultation with our lawyers, housing experts and our supporters.”

Condemning the Provincial Cabinet’s decision, the ANC said it will lobby for the Tafelberg site to be expropriated in the public interest if the sale goes ahead. They said they will also be laying a complaint with the Public Protector and request her office to launch a full investigation into this matter.

The Provincial Cabinet said they decided to go ahead with the sale of the Tafelberg site, having received presentations from various departments and the full set of public comments.

A statement issued by Ms Zille’s spokesperson Michael Mpofu, on behalf of the Western Cape Cabinet, said: “Cabinet accepted that it cannot achieve all its strategic objectives on every single site. On the basis of what was presented to cabinet, including the current pipeline for affordable housing in the Metro, the two aforementioned decisions, legal advice from senior counsel, affordability risks, fiscal constraints in the current economic climate, cabinet resolved that the Tafelberg site is not ideally suited to affordable housing, especially as the state subsidy cannot be utilised there under current national policy.”

Mr Mpofu added: “Sea Point, where the Tafelberg property is located, also falls outside of a restructuring zone. This is as per the advice of legal counsel to cabinet, which was requested following this risk being pointed out during the course of public participation on the Tafelberg site.”

Provincial Cabinet also said they had prioritised the Woodstock Hospital site and the Helen Bowden Nurses Home as sites for affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is a strategic priority of the provincial government, particularly as it relates to the reintegration of Cape Town to combat the legacy of apartheid spatial planning. The Province’s Better Living Model Game Changer is making progress in creating well-located affordable housing, through mixed income, mixed-use developments.

“In Pinelands, a residential feeder suburb to the inner city of Cape Town, 22 hectares of land are immediately available. We have calculated that 3 600 residential opportunities can be built on this site. This will include a mix of affordable housing options to be cross-subsidised by open market properties and retail space. A total of 3 000 units are also planned for the Belhar CBD, where a mixed-use high density residential development will create an urban context around nearby education facilities – the University of the Western Cape, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Northlink College and the provincial government’s Oasis School for children with barriers to learning,” said Mr Mpofu.

Last week, vice-chairperson of Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, Lance Katz, said they would abide by whatever decision Province made regarding the sale.