RE: Objection to the sale of Tafelberg Remedial School and Wynard Mansions by Premier Helen Zille and MEC Donald Grant
On 17 April 2014 the Social Justice Coalition made a joint submission along with Ndifuna Ukwazi and Equal Education to MEC for Transport and Public Works, Robin Carlisle, objecting to the sale and/or lease of four properties showcased to private sector parties at an ‘investors’ conference held on 26 March 2014. One of these properties was the Tafelberg Remedial School and Wynard Mansions.
On 11 June 2014 the Social Justice Coalition wrote to the then newly appointed MEC for Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, informing him of our previous objection to the sale and/or lease of the four properties.
MEC Grant responded to our letter and objections on 11 June 2014. In it he assured our organisations that “the market” would be given “the development potential at the sites [including the Tafelberg property] but without ever owning them.” The outright sale, without restrictions, of the Tafelberg site, now halted pending comments and objections, therefore came as a surprise to our organisation.
The issue of an elected official failing to keep their word and assurances to the electorate aside, the basis of our objection to the sale of the land more than two-years ago still stands today.
Severe shortage of land in Cape Town according to the City and Province
The City of Cape Town and the Provincial Government have regularly used the shortage of land in the city as a primary response to questions regarding inadequate housing provision, land redistribution, service delivery, and urban densification.
MEC Grant in his letter on 11 June 2014, while ironically defending the then long-term lease of Western Cape Government sites, maintained that appropriate land for affordable housing was not available. The MEC laid the blame for this shortage on National Government.
All spheres of government are obliged to take steps to reverse Apartheid spatial planning
The 2011 census shows that roughly 20% of households in the city are informal.
The South African Constitution – in particular, Sections 152, 153, and 195 – require that municipal, provincial, and national government must perform their duties, always prioritising the progressive realisation of the rights of the most vulnerable in society. This must be done through democratic and accountable government implemented in ways that are fair, equitable, and promote the dignity of all people.
The City of Cape Town’s Spatial Development Framework – the primary long-term planning document adopted for the City – is emphatic of the need for densification with respect to the spatial development of Cape Town over the next twenty years.
Instead of promoting and encouraging the use of available land for the development of plans for mixed, affordable, and low-cost housing within Cape Town, the City and Province continue to entrench Apartheid-era planning. Both levels of government speak of the unavailability of land and refer to National Government as the sphere of government refusing to make land available closer to the city’s central areas. This skirting by provincial government of its constitutional obligations, opportunistically laying the blame on another level of government, while it sells available, well-placed land is worrying.
Short-sightedness of the “income stream“ argument
A reliance on an income stream based on the sale of a finite number of “surplus” provincial properties for the provision of social services on the periphery is not sustainable and so ultimately a disingenuous argument.
The enlistment of this argument by the Western Cape Government only sets a precedent for other levels of government to do the same which would simply undermine our ability to progressively address the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.
While the Social Justice Coalition continues to campaign for more resources to be allocated to Khayelitsha, and other similarly placed communities on the urban edge, we refuse to accept the further entrenchment of apartheid spatial planning for unsustainable short-term gain.
In our campaign for improved access to safe and dignified sanitation in Khayelitsha we have also clearly illustrated that the City of Cape Town, through an entirely subjective policy choice are spending resources on extremely expensive temporary services when the City could build and operate 9 full flush toilets for the cost of every 1 chemical toilet currently provided. This is unreasonable and irrational.
The sale of the Tafelberg site for R135 million would currently not cover the provision of 5000 chemical toilets provided by a private service provider at a cost of R205 million over a 22 month period in Cape Town. Spent differently and rationally the R205 million could however provide 45 000 full flush toilets. Clearly with political will, resources to improve social services in Cape Town can be found making the sale of well-placed land, able to address other constitutional imperatives, unnecessary.
The income revenue argument proffered by the provincial government and MEC Grant is further short-sighted in that it fails to appreciate the cost of ill-health, morbidity and a lack of safety associated with geographic isolation and poor living conditions related to shelter, sanitation and water.
The long-term intergenerational benefits of a mixed-income environment on the specific needs of children, their early childhood development and the possibility for improved and greater parental support (because of reduced work commutes) is clearly also not being taken into consideration.
The Western Cape Government must overturn the sale of the Tafelberg site and it should actively explore the provision of mixed income affordable housing on the site instead. It must ensure that it works towards the constitutional imperative of healing the divisions of our past, evident in the geographic and still largely race-based isolation of Cape Town. It should forego unsustainable short-term benefit for a more robust sustainable and infinitely more caring long-term vision.