Notes from the Media briefing on extraordinary and irregular land purchase by Western Cape Government

STATEMENT BY BRETT HERRON, MEMBER OF THE WESTERN CAPE

PROVINCIAL PARLIAMENT FOR GOOD.

15 August 2019

Notes from the Media briefing on extraordinary and irregular land purchase by Western Cape Government

Standing Committee on Public Accounts requested to investigate.

Thank you for taking the trouble to join us today. In recent weeks and months, spatial integration – or the lack thereof, has been much in the news.

Achieving social and spatial justice are key pillars of the GOOD movement. Spatial integration in the post-apartheid context specifically refers to the process of unstitching the fabric of the Group Areas Act and dissolving the glue binding race and space in our towns and cities. It’s a contentious issue.

  • Homeowners in relatively valuable formerly Whites-only suburbs fear potential negative impacts on their investments of affordable housing on their doorsteps.

  • The poorer you are, the further you are likely to live from your place of work, and the more you must spend on transport costs.

  • We live in a city with among the widest gaps in living standards between rich and poor on earth where, 30 minutes from where you dine on caviar in the Waterfront, children die of treatable diseases such as diarrhoea.

  • Cape Town is a city which, in the 25 years of our democracy, has failed to develop a single affordable housing project in a formerly white suburb.

This is clearly not sustainable in a country in which radical inequity is a national crisis; nor is it fair, righteous or just.

These were the very issues central to some of us leaving relatively comfortable leadership positions in the DA-led City of Cape Town and establishing the GOOD Movement.

Last week the City announced it was cancelling five affordable housing projects in the inner-city. Today, I want to share with you the lengths to which the city and province go to maintain the apartheid spatial status quo. Before meeting you, I submitted the same information to the Chairperson of Scopa with a request for further investigation.

Consider this scenario: A radically overcrowded settlement bursts its seams onto the adjacent rail reserve. It becomes an emergency when the train service has to be halted for safety reasons. There is an urgent necessity for the provision of alternative land. The City owns a suitable tract of land in the immediate vicinity, adjacent to a taxi rank and other amenities, which would be relatively quick to develop.

But this land borders a previously whites-only neighbourhood – and there’s an election around the corner. There’s another piece of vacant land within the present footprint of the historically Black township and informal settlement. This land is in private hands, so it will take longer to acquire and develop. It is dramatically over- valued – professional planners employed by the City say the purchase price is inflated by more than double. And part of the land is a wetland and cannot be developed.

Which piece of land would you choose?

The province, with the complicity of City Councillors, took a political decision to go for the more expensive option. They chose the longer development route. They chose to maintain the Group Areas Act status quo. The only possible explanation for this decision is that the land the City chose to purchase fell within the “Black footprint” of Dunoon – out of sight of middle-class and predominantly white Table View.

The cost of the land and how long it would take to develop were of no concern; nor taking concrete steps to develop a sustainable, spatially integrated City.

In March 2018, when I was still a Mayco Member in the City of Cape Town, my office alerted Councillor Limberg that the Potsdam land owned by the City was still available for housing purposes.  We specifically advised, in relation to the growing pressures in Dunoon, that this was important for Dunoon given “the threats of additional invasions on the few remaining school fields and impending challenges on removals”.

In July 2018, while I was still serving on the City’s Mayoral Committee, local Councillor Joy McCarthy contacted me to request that a lease agreement be fast-tracked for the Potsdam land in favour of one of her residents, specifically that the “process of alienation in favour of Mr Trigg be expedited, so that we can improve the appearance of Table View and the safety of its citizens”.

In the days following my resignation in November 2018, the same Councillor McCarthy called a former staff member of mine to request housing projects be stopped in her area because they would make her suburb “look like Khayelitsha by the sea”.

Last week, I learned that the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements had paid more than R64m for the so-called Doornbach, or Killarney Gardens, land - more than double the price it was valued by the city’s planners.

What brave politicians should be doing, instead of yielding to NIMBY pressures, is using public land for public good. You have been given copies of the correspondence with Scopa, together with supporting evidence.

Later today, in the House, I expect MEC for Human Settlements Mr Simmers to formally confirm the iniquitous purchase price of the land.

Ends…