As the country was marking worker’s Day on Wednesday, May 1, hundreds of Reclaim the City members gathered at the Green Point Bowling Green demanding answers from the City of Cape Town regarding plans for the space.
The site has been at the centre of a long battle between the City and Reclaim the City, a movement campaigning for access to decent, affordable housing, including in and near the inner city.
On Human Rights Day this year, March 21, Reclaim the City members staged a protest at the Rondebosch Golf Course against what they say is the City’s failure to redistribute public land for affordable housing.
At the Green Point Bowling Green, the housing activists dug foundations and laid bricks while the young children played sports on the field. They painted the wall with: “City of Cape Town build affordable housing here.”
The City confirmed that the Green Point Bowling Green lease to the Glen Green-Point Sport and Recreation Club and Western Cape Bridge Union expired at the end of April.
The housing activists called for the City to not renew the lease and stand by its commitment to use the land for affordable housing.
“Promises do not make homes. When will the City lay the first brick? When will the City finish the project?” they said.
In May last year, the City said a new affordable housing project had been planned for the formerly unused bowling green in Green Point.
In November, former mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, accused the City officials of blocking the progress of the project, claiming there was a group within the DA that was opposed to social housing in or near the inner city (“Red robot for housing on green,” Atlantic Sun, November 22, 2018).
In a letter addressed to deputy mayor Ian Neilson, on their plea for the lease to not be renewed, they stated: “The City understands the impact of the housing crisis on residents like us. Despite commitments made to develop affordable housing in the inner city and surrounds, no projects have broken ground. Nearly 25 years after the end of apartheid, not one new home has been built.
“We and every resident expects the City to be prioritising affordable housing and the redistribution of public land. We cannot tolerate delays or any attempts to block developments. As it stands our members have been forced to occupy public buildings to avoid displacement.”
On the day, placards stating: “Bowling is not of public benefit if only a few can play. The lease is unjust don’t renew, redevelop”, could be seen at the main gate. They said the aim of the protest was to hold the City to account for commitments made to build affordable housing on this site, in the Foreshore, in the inner city, in Woodstock and in Salt River and on other City-leased land.
They said the Green Point Bowling Green is an example of the City’s failure to redistribute land and prioritise the needs of poor and working-class
“The City continues to lease out the site to Glen Green Sports Centre for a mere R1000 a year. This is an unfair, unequal, and unprincipled approach to the use of well-located, public land,” they said.
Responding on the decision about the lease, the City’s mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos, said the lease renewal process had been
advertised calling for comments and/or objections.
“The comment period closed on April 23. The property will be leased for a two-year and 11 month lease period, on condition that there is a one-year cancellation clause, if and when the property is needed for development,” he said.