More than 200 members of the activist group, Reclaim the City, occupied Rondebosch Golf Course on Human Rights Day last Thursday, March 21, protesting against what they said was the City’s failure to deliver social housing and redistribute land.
The protest was supported by Ndifuna Ukwazi, Unite Behind, Equal Education, Social Justice Coalition and Languedoc Advice Office.
Ndifuna Ukwazi’s Nkosikhona Swartbooi said: “We were shocked to see how beautiful it is inside. An oasis in the heart of our city with open fields, trees and rivers.”
Mr Swartbooi said the golf club paid only R1 000 a year in rent.
“It’s clear our best public land has been captured by a few wealthy people, while the majority of black and coloured residents continue to live on the outskirts of the city, far from good infrastructure, services and job opportunities,” he said.
Deputy mayor Ian Nielsen said the Rondebosch Golf Course had a 25-year lease granted by a previous council and the City was honouring it.
Karen Hendricks, from Reclaim the City, accused the City of failing to provide decent inner-city housing and distribute public land.
Ntuthuzelo Vika, of the Social Justice Coalition, said: “It is very unconstitutional that people are playing golf at a golf course that pays R1 000 per year rent, while there are people in Khayelitsha who don’t have proper housing.”
Margaret Hayes, 80 turned a sod at the golf course. She lives at the Woodstock Hospital after Reclaim the City occupied the building it calls Cissie Gool House.
“Ms Hayes is one of the reasons why we occupy buildings. For anyone who sees it as a criminal act, remember the elderly people, that are actually struggling for a place to call a home,” said Mr Swartbooi.
General manager of the Rondebosch Golf Course, Don Ball said that he was grateful that it was a peaceful protest by RTC and that there was no destruction of property. “We just feel that it is unfortunate that the Rondebosch Golf course was used as an example by RTC,” he said.
Mr Ball said the idea that the golf course could be used for social housing would be a big loss for Cape Town as it serves as an important environmental node for the city. He said the club’s membership was widely representative of the demographics of the city.
Zacharia Mashele, from Ndifuna Ukwazi, said Mr Nielsen had suggested in 2016 that Cape Town had too many golf courses and it was perhaps time to explore rationalisation options. (“Golf clubs have plan B,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, April 28, 2016).
Speaking to the Tatler last Friday, Mr Neilsen said: “When the lease comes to an end, there will be a public process, in terms of the municipal asset transfer regulations, to determine the future of the land. No decision can be made until that process is complete.”
Mr Swartbooi said in commemorating Human Rights Day, they remembered how their parents and grandparents had struggled against an oppressive racist regime.
“They knew that there could be no justice and equality without the return of the land,” he said.
Mr Swartbooi said the Rondebosch Golf Course was as big as 45 soccer fields and could house thousands of families.
“Instead, it has been leased to a private club for R1 000 a year, where membership costs R15 750 a year,” he said.
Mr Nielsen said the City had a great deal of land already earmarked for development.
“Some of that is to be used for government housing development and some sold to the private sector for development,” he said.
The limitation on housing development was the lack of funding from the national government, he said.
“If more funds were allocated to the City, we would develop the land much faster,” he said.