Michael de Beer

Dear Premier Zille:

I am against the Sale of the Tafelberg Site in Sea Point. I am against the sale of government land without conditions imposed that foster towards addressing the wrongs of our collective past. I support the rental of this land, to remain in government hands for our children’s future. I strongly support the development of this site for the use for affordable housing and mixed-use entities that endeavour to create equal opportunity.

Motivation: Inclusivity and Spatial Justice

The fall of Apartheid was a momentous achievement for all South Africans. It marked a point in history for the birth of a collective future, a future where all are presented with equal opportunity. Apartheid’s most divisive instrument was the introduction of city planning in the early 1950’s, a discipline designed to dissect the city. The perfect tool in instituting racial segregation, but more importantly stripping bare Coloured, Indian and Black South Africans assets and limiting access to opportunity. In this time white South Africans had instituted their position in society,  creating enclaves within the city that remain segregated today with limited integration.

This continued segregation of our city today can be attributed to several reasons. These include self-interested property and ratepayers associations, The sale of government land for ‘profit’, the lack of provision for affordable housing in the city, and the continued development of low cost housing at the edges of the city perpetuating the intentions and structural separation instituted by Apartheid.

These challenges are not unique to Cape Town, but are reflected throughout South Africa from small towns to large cities. Spatially we have achieved very little since the dawn of our new democracy and this has most significantly perpetuated Apartheids intended limitation of opportunity for ‘undesirables’. It is little wonder that 22 years later we teeter on the edge of economic downgrades, excessive unemployment, increasingly violent strikes, ghastly crimes, and a city fabric that demographically has not changed.

To contextualise the problem of urbanisation in South Africa, Professor Edgar Pieterse, chair of the African Centre for Cities, advocates that urbanisation is occurring at increasingly rapid rate.. Professor Julian Cooke, known for his contribution to the development of hostels into family homes in Cape Town, recently highlighted at the Inaugural Roelof S Uyetenbogaardt UDISA Memorial Lecture (2015), that we in South Africa need to position city building as our central concern if we are to move forward as a society. Professor David Dewar has for the last two decades advocated that our cities are in crisis. These figureheads in urban development in South Africa are not alone in this position, and a wealth of documents, papers and publications throughout the country corroborate one simple point : That we need to be approaching urban development differently, by focusing on integration, providing a diversity of housing opportunities and most importantly not continuing the unabated sprawling monotonous rollout of RDP housing on fringes of our cities.

The solutions to the problems we face are multifaceted and are not clear-cut. They are diverse and should not be approached with singular solutions. Yet it is clear that we have not done enough and the blame does not fall squarely on government alone. However, it is government’s role and responsibility to work towards and champion a greater vision, fight for those that cannot fight for themselves and endeavour to afford opportunity, establish equality and resolve the spatial injustice inherited from Apartheid.

In this vein there are great examples of projects both locally and nationally that set a precedent for developing more inclusive cities that afford opportunity to the most marginalised in our society. In doing so these developments are small in scale, integrated into the city fabric, provide space for a range of income groups, provide active edges to the public realm and offer commercial rental space to varied income groups. A good example being those projects delivered though the institutional housing scheme supported by both local and provincial government bodies. It is imperative that social housing, mixed use development and integrated city building be central to government’s development initiative if we are to move beyond the legacy of Apartheid.

With this said the Tafelberg site offers unique opportunity to champion these goals and afford opportunity to the disenfranchised sectors of our society that are struggling to secure a foothold in urban areas and sustain/establish a dignified livelihood. The Tafelberg site is perhaps one of the most ideally located sites in the city, positioned in Sea Point main road, a stones through away from the City Bowl. Residents within these areas are afforded a wealth of amenities, good schools, public transport, a wide range of public facilities and economic opportunities. It is of concern (but not surprising) that increasingly this area, which once could have been identified as one of the most integrated of Cape Town’s suburbs, is now becoming increasingly exclusionary as rental and property prices are rapidly increasing. Perhaps now is the time to make a stand and protect those that need it most.

Sincerely,

Michael de Beer

Urban Designer

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