Court to rule on school site

Ac­tivists want sale of Tafel­berg School land to be re­versed, say­ing it could be used for af­ford­able hous­ing


WHEN the old Tafel­berg School site in Sea Point was sold to the Phyl­lis Jow­ell Jewish Day School for R135 mil­lion, hous­ing ac­tivists fumed.

Five years af­ter that con­tro­ver­sial sale, the Western Cape High Court will fi­nally rule on the provin­cial gov­ern­ment’s sale of the land.

Hous­ing ac­tivists group Re­claim the City and ac­tivist or­gan­i­sa­tion and law cen­tre Nd­i­funa Uk­wazi have waged a sus­tained cam­paign to re­verse the sale of the land, say­ing it could in­stead be used for af­ford­able hous­ing.

The de­ci­sion to sell the site was made de­spite the provin­cial depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments promis­ing the land would be used for hous­ing.

Nd­i­funa Uk­wazi di­rec­tor Man­disa Shandu said: “Nd­i­funa Uk­wazi has main­tained that un­lock­ing parcels of well-lo­cated land for af­ford­able hous­ing is crit­i­cal to ad­dress­ing ur­ban in­equal­ity and dis­rupt­ing the re­pro­duc­tion of the apartheid city. Land is fi­nite. The need to ac­cess land as a mech­a­nism to be­gin to undo the legacy of spa­tial apartheid and re­spond to deep­en­ing in­equal­ity can­not be over­stated.

“This is the con­text against which we have chal­lenged the dis­posal of the Tafel­berg site by the provin­cial gov­ern­ment – for a short-term cap­i­tal in­jec­tion. We have ar­gued that the sale of a par­cel of land that had pre­vi­ously been ear­marked to ad­dress the cri­sis of en­trenched spa­tial in­equal­ity is blind­ingly short-sighted. It is in­creas­ingly clear that we need a new, more just vi­sion for the city, and to act on it with a sense of ur­gency.”

Pres­sure on the DA-led ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan mount­ing af­ter ac­tivists started a pe­ti­tion for the land to be de­vel­oped into af­ford­able hous­ing for the hun­dreds of work­ers who can’t af­ford to live close to their work­places.

Re­claim the City Sea Point Chap­ter leader El­iz­a­beth Qgob­oka, who is an oc­cu­pier at the He­len Bow­den nurs­ing home close to the Waterfront, said: “The rea­son why we have been fight­ing for this Tafel­berg site for af­ford­able low-cost hous­ing is be­cause in Sea Point, it’s where many do­mes­tic work­ers and gar­den­ers work. It’s sur­rounded with job cre­ation. Many peo­ple travel far to come to work. We need to fight for this so our peo­ple can ben­e­fit.”

In Novem­ber 2016, the provin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mis­sioned a fea­si­bil­ity study for so­cial hous­ing on Tafel­berg. It found that 270 units of so­cial hous­ing could be built. But de­spite ob­jec­tions to the fea­si­bil­ity study in 2016, then-pre­mier He­len Zille an­nounced the de­ci­sion made by her ex­ec­u­tive to pro­ceed with the sale.

The provin­cial gov­ern­ment said the site was “not ideally suited to af­ford­able hous­ing, es­pe­cially as the state sub­sidy can­not be utilised there un­der cur­rent na­tional pol­icy”.

But the site be­came a mon­u­ment of fail­ure to re­dress apartheid spa­tial plan­ning in Cape Town. It served as a cat­a­lyst for prime prop­erty be­ing sold to de­vel­op­ers with­out the con­sid­er­a­tion of in­clu­sive hous­ing or so­cial hous­ing. Nd­i­funa Uk­wazi launched a court bid to have the sale re­viewed. The case was heard be­fore Judge Pa­trick Gam­ble and Judge Monde Samela in Novem­ber last year.

De­vel­op­ment Ac­tion Group ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Adi Ku­mar said: “The Tafel­berg de­ci­sion is per­haps the most im­por­tant and cru­cial de­ci­sion: ‘What is the func­tion of public land in South Africa?’ This judg­ment will set the tone for com­ing decades where the courts, and hope­fully the state will de­cide that well-lo­cated cen­tral land is the main in­stru­ment for in­te­grat­ing a seg­re­gated Cape Town.”

For­mer mayco mem­ber for Trans­port and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, Brett Her­ron, now the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Good, joined the court bid as a friend of the court.

“In a city and prov­ince with a mas­sive hous­ing short­age, and a de­vel­op­ment pat­tern that still re­sem­bles apartheid’s Group Ar­eas Act, the judg­ment will give some di­rec­tion on the role of public land in ad­dress­ing these crises. We will never break the back of our hous­ing back­log un­less we adopt a more in­clu­sive ap­proach to public land,” he said.

AR­MAND HOUGH African News Agency (ANA)

JUDG­MENT in the Tafel­berg case is ex­pected to be made on Mon­day. It comes af­ter hous­ing ac­tivists took the DA-led ad­min­is­tra­tion to court to have the sale set aside. |

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