June 6th, 2016
Tafelberg site – Towards a new ethics of care and nurturing future wellbeing
Dear Premier Zille,
Our country and our cities are in immense trouble. Cape Town is an unwell and unhealed city where twenty-two years into democracy we are still fighting for a more just, inclusive and equitable city. There is much work to be done in confronting the unfinished business of post-Apartheid healing and reconstruction and the redress of the inequitable and unjust spatial legacy. At present our efforts to create a more equitable and livable urban fabric have resulted in a sustained anomaly in which social fragmentation, segregation, inequality, and ecological degradation are all worsening, and sustaining anomalies. Healing arguably has yet to begin. We have a tremendous responsibility to examine and re-examine our colonial and Apartheid legacies and more energetically address the symptoms and consequences of the pervasiveness of the legacy of Apartheid planning.
Simultaneously, globally rapidly worsening social and ecological conditions compel urgent questions as to how to avoid urban collapse, mass deprivation, violence and environmental apocalypse and disaster. In this time cities need to assume radical responsibility. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is a time of transformation where it is necessary to create both new kinds of urban relations as well as new kinds of cities.
In this context it is imperative that we extend our solidarity and use every opportunity for acts of care, to heal fragmentation, and to foster modes of living together better. At a time where we need every tool we can use in the arsenal of planning and better city management to change the untenable status quo into something more just and equal for all, the gesture of selling public land and preventing access, inclusivity and the opportunity for redress is astonishing and extremely short-sighted.
It seems self-evident that selling the Tafelberg site via the open market does not promote inclusion and healing. Tafelberg has to offer a different way of doing things. Although superficially, the Tafelberg site issue might seem small and negligible, it is, however, an issue in which the greater social, cultural, historical, economic, memory, meaning systems, and ethical connections are so starkly and eloquently expressed that it serves as a microcosm of critical choices facing our city, and our country. The value and the symbolic importance of the site to the surrounding community and to Cape Town is clear and widely acknowledged, a value that would be greatly enhanced if the space was developed in an inclusive restorative manner.
If we continue to sacrifice social justice, wellbeing and healing for the short-term enrichment of a minority, the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow exponentially and we will soon find ourselves in a city that is uninhabitable and diminished for all.
We need to engage more ‘human’ definitions of what ‘development’ means and more nuanced metrics of wellbeing. We need to embrace marginalised and demonised groups. Now is the time for new possibilities of action and passion and to use landholdings more imaginatively, compassionately and creatively towards a new ethics of care.
Masters in City & Regional Planning
School of Architecture Planning and Geomatics