Dear Premier Zille
Sea Point is a part of Cape Town that has attracted the imagination of some of the city’s most gifted writers and artists. Its meeting of land, sea, the built environment and a remarkable diversity of human cultures is a compelling place from which to think about Cape Town as a place of striking physical environments but also a complex, traumatic history.
Alex La Guma was one of the chief mobilisers against the Group Areas Act in the city, reporting on forced removals from Tramway Road, and also writing a radio play on the subject while in exile. In K. Sello Duiker’s post-apartheid novel Thirteen Cents, the main character Azure tells us: “I’m always lost, that’s why I hide out in Sea Point. Get it? ‘See Point’ That’s where my eyes are. I miss Sea Point. And I know that I can never go back there.”
Sea Point is also the place where J. M. Coetzee’s masterpiece Life and Times of Michael K begins, at a time of unspecified civil war. For Breyten Breytenbach, “Sea Point is in some ways like a foreshortened illustration of the South African folly”. Poet Karen Press explores its natural, social and psychic geographies in her collection Echo Location. Francois Verster’s documentary Sea Point Days gives a portrait of the South African transition via the Sea Point Pool and Promenade. The Promenade is also a setting for one of Henrietta Rose-Innes’s short stories, while slightly further inland, playwright Nicholas Spagnoletti gives an acclaimed portrait of London Road.
All of these writers (and many more) have imagined other worlds into being, while still grappling with the deep inequalities and lingering apartheid topography of Cape Town. To sell off such important public land to private developers in a city that remains so divided represents a total failure of social and political imagination. We call on Premier Helen Zille to stop the sale of Tafelberg, and to join those who wish to imagine a different kind of city into being.
Hedley Twidle, Anselmo Matusse, Hanien Conradie, Maya Marshak, Neil Overy, Nikiwe Solomon, Tania Katzschner
Environmental Humanities South
University of Cape Town