Prof. Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie

7 June 2016

Dear Premier Helen Zille,

Re: Sale of Tafelberg site

I am a professor of history who has researched and taught about forced removals, the apartheid city and land restitution. I have also written specifically about Sea Point – its early twentieth history of a secluded white enclave and the later removal of the Tramway Road community. Sea Point grew as transport, water and sewage systems developed and became a home for the wealthy and for the middle classes who sought to avoid the interracial and mixed class composition of the central city district. The then municipality of Sea Point was largely white in composition with a few black segregated spots for the workers in the area. Apartheid sought to undo even this as Sea Point gained the distinction of seeing the first mass removals in Cape Town – when the Tramway Road community was relocated to Bonteheuwel. It was the pattern of the apartheid city that the black working class was located on the fringes of the city. Beautiful spots near the ocean and the mountain were white preserves.

To undo the apartheid city we need some vision and bold decisions. For this reason I oppose the sale of the Tafelberg site for private development. Here is an opportunity for the city to do something radically different from the past and to make provision for the working class in an area near their places of work and in the surrounds of some some beauty.

I do hope you can make this bold decision and try something different for the city. Land restitution has not been a suitable means to change the city – the return of the Tramway Road community, for instance, has been bedeviled with difficulties. When we have public land available this should be used to undo apartheid’s legacy.

Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie

Senior Professor, History Department

Deputy Dean, Arts Faculty (Research and Postgraduate Studies)

PDF here.


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