Fight for Tafelberg continues

Members from various housing activist groups during a presentation to discuss the way forward.

The fight for the old Tafelberg school site continues for social housing activists who met on Saturday, August 27, to discuss the way forward.

Reclaim The City (RTC) and Ndifuna Ukwazi hosted a general assembly at the Sea Point Methodist Church.

Yesterday, Wednesday, August 31, marked the two-year anniversary since the Western Cape High Court set aside the R135 million sale of the former Tafelberg school site. The successful bidder, the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, indicated at the time that it would not be pursuing the purchase of the property further.

Head of the Law Centre at Ndifuna Ukwazi and leading the Tafelberg case, Disha Govender says they’re currently waiting for confirmation from the court regarding an appeal.

“The province and the City have appealed parts of the judgment that was granted in August 2020, where we are currently sitting is waiting for the Supreme Court of Appeal to indicate when that appeal would be heard.”

Ndifuna Ukwazi and RTC hope the matter would be heard this year.

Ms Govender added, “This specific part of the judgment that the Province and the City is appealing is the finding of the court that they have failed to redress spatial apartheid in central Cape Town…”

She said the Province is not appealing the court’s decision which reviewed and set aside the sale of the Tafelberg site. “There’s no legal impediment in terms of the court case to them using this land for affordable housing.”

A sign outside the general assembly meeting at the Sea Point Methodist Church.

House leaders from RTC and Ahmed Kathrada House, the name given to those occupying the old Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home, addressed the assembly to revive the movement.

Over the last two years, the housing activist groups also lost members who were part of the fight for housing and observed a moment of silence for them.

A moment of silence for fallen members who were part of the fight for affordable housing. From left Noloyiso Pere, Andiswa Poswa and Wilson Ngcombela

Reclaim The City activist Elizabeth Gqoboka said they’re going to be visible during the ongoing fight.

“We’re going to start reviving our movement and mobilise so that we can be more visible, we’re standing for the truth…We as RTC want people to stay in safer environments and closer to their workplaces.”

Ms Gqoboka has worked and lived in Sea Point for 30 years and says workers feel excluded from things happening in the area.

“I feel there needs to be a space we can call affordable for people that don’t earn so much money, to be considered to be part of the area as we work here and look after people.”

According to RTC and Ndifuna Ukwazi, the Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, was invited to the general assembly but his office sent an apology as he had “prior long-standing commitments”.

Another house leader from RTC, Sheila Madikane felt disappointed about the premier’s absence.

“We want to have a meaningful engagement with him… we are not going to stop… the land is for people not for profit.”

Reclaim The City’s house leaders Elizabeth Gqoboka and Sheila Madikane addressing the crowd.

In response to the Atlantic Sun, Infrastructure MEC Tertuis Simmers said: “Leave to appeal the original judgment has been granted by the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal and the applicable papers have been filed. With the passage of time since the original sale was concluded, circumstances with which the Province is faced have changed significantly and the property is no longer surplus to the needs of the Western Cape Government. The property will therefore be used for the Province to deliver on its mandated services. For this reason, repairs and improvements are being affected. An earlier plan for a subdivision of the site and the use of the subdivided portion for the provision of social housing through the allocation of the subdivided portion to the Provincial Department of Human Settlements is being re-evaluated.”

Mrs Simmers said the provincial government have started on projects.

“The Western Cape Government has in recent years embarked on several initiatives which it believes best enables it to deliver social housing opportunities. Examples of these initiatives include Conradie Park, Founders Garden, Leeuloop and the Somerset Precinct. The Somerset Precinct development has been significantly delayed as a result of the unlawful occupation of the former Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home.

The matter is currently waiting for a date from the Supreme Court of Appeal.