Leaked documents show province ‘lied’ about Tafelberg

Sheila Madikane, Reclaim the City chairperson, at a press conference last Thursday July 21.

The proceeds from selling surplus government properties such as the Tafelberg site in Sea Point were set to go to new government offices and not for affordable housing, according to Ndifuna Ukwazi, a legal centre acting on behalf of the Reclaim the City campaign.

On Sunday Ndifuna Ukwazi published an online dossier of around 700 leaked documents from the Western Cape Provincial Government. These included internal emails, memos, meeting minutes and technical reports dubbed #WCLeaks.

Among the revelations are that the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works sold the Tafelberg site with the intention of diverting money to help pay for a R1.2 billion project, the Dorp Street Public Private Partnership (PPP), which was a proposed office block to house the provincial education department.

This come after Reclaim the City supporters last week called for Premier Helen Zille’s adviser, Gary Fisher, to be suspended due to a conflict of interest in the Tafelberg sale, as he is a property investor and a public official (“Disappointed residents ‘sick of broken promises’”, Atlantic Sun July 21).

The Tafelberg site has been at the centre of contention since the City sold the former Ellerslie Girls’High School and then Tafelberg Remedial School site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million.

The sale was stopped after an agreement between the provincial government and lawyers for Reclaim the City was was made an order of the High Court in April. Reclaim the City want the site to be used for affordable housing. The issue was opened up to a public participation process.

On the latest leaks, an Ndifuna Ukwazi statement said: “These revelations prove that province sold the Tafelberg site – an important and valuable public asset one which had the proven potential for affordable housing development – to generate quick cash flow to divert into an unaffordable office mega-project, a development which holds negligible benefit for the public. Province did not have any intention of reinvesting the money in projects to help uplift poor communities, and statements to that effect amount to lies.

“These #WCLeaks bolster the already compelling case for Premier Helen Zille to #StopTheSale of Tafelberg and to reserve the site for affordable housing.”

A Reclaim the City statement said: “Province had previously said that the proceeds would be spent on infrastructure in poor communities. Apart from the fact that there are also poor people in Sea Point who needed the site for housing, we must conclude that province lied to us about why it sold Tafelberg.

“As with many times during the last few months, it has been shown that Province is running away from the truth. They were playing with people’s minds. They were covering up.

“We find it unacceptable that province can sell public land, land that belongs to the people of the Western Cape, with the intention of using the money to build a fancy new office building. What this means is that many poor families have been denied the opportunity to live in decent affordable housing in the city, because province wanted to use the Tafelberg site as a way to make quick money to balance its own books.”

Byron la Hoe,spokesperson for Department of Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant, said the money had to be reprioritised following budget cuts.

He said the funds would be used to improve service delivery. “Subsequently austerity measures were being applied through national government. These have had significant implications for all provinces.

“The provision of suitable facilities for provincial service departments is clearly an important step in the process of service delivery, particularly where the shift can be made from leased to owned accommodation. Thereby, ultimately saving money for further service delivery.”

Premier Helen Zille said in a statement last week that due process was being followed with the Tafelberg site.

“I seek and follow legal advice at every step of the way in complex governmental processes, and this one is no different.

“The cabinet will make a determination on the property once all of the approximate 5 000 submissions have been fairly considered, and in accordance with the Constitution and other applicable laws.

“All the legal advice I have received at every stage of this process will also be available to the cabinet.”