Legal action looms over Good Hope Centre

MATTHEW HIRSCH

Civic organisations are planning to take the City of Cape Town to court over the privatisation of the Good Hope Centre.

Atlantic Sun previously reported that moves to lease the facility to a film studio had left organisations like the Malay Choir Board, which hosted its competitions there, without a venue (“Choir competition left out in the cold”, February 4).

On Thursday March 31, the City Council approved a short-term lease of two years and 11 months for the Good Hope Centre. Businesses in the film industry will be invited to submit their offers by way of a public tender.

This leaves organisations like the Cape Malay Choir Board (CMCB), whose first competition event for the year takes place this weekend, with limited options.

The board’s president, Shafick April, said the last few weeks had been chaotic for them. He said they have gone from a venue that was able to house between 4 000 and 5 000 people to the City Hall, which can only accommodate about 1 000.

He has also criticised the City for lack of public participation over the matter.

The first Cape Malay Choir events of the year take place this weekend and Mr April says they have had to divide it into four sessions and over two days because of City Hall’s limited capacity.

“We have had to organise big screens because there aren’t enough tickets. They (the City) don’t take notice of us. They didn’t even reply to our memorandum.”

Osman Shaboodien, chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, say they have informed the City of their intention to take legal action. “This is not something we want to do as it costs a lot of money. It is an act of desperation so that our voices can be heard,” he said.

He said that the point of public facilities was not to make a profit and the City needed to change its way of thinking. “If this is the case then they should privatise parks and libraries,” he added.

Mr Shaboodien said the City had started cutting back on events at the venue as far back as four years ago. “Now we’re in limbo because the people who are attending those competitions are already saying there is not enough space in venues like the City Hall. If you look at these organisations, they have structured their events around the centre.”

Shahied Ajam, chairperson of the D6 Working Committee (D6WC), said in a letter to Athlone News, the Atlantic Sun’s sister paper, that for the community of District Six, the centre symbolised “the last bastion of hope that one day they would return to their beloved city and reclaim what is rightfully theirs”.

“The centre has served the greater Cape Town community for many decades,” he said. “It is also home to many social organisations, economic and cultural organisations, community groups as well as event companies which hosted exhibitions, meeting conferences, community gatherings, sporting and recreational events.

“This landmark building has earned itself a place in the history books of the greater Cape Town, if not South Africa. The District Six community and its business partners intend to take ownership of the Good Hope Centre during the restitution process, with a view to initiating innovative proposals to position this space as a viable social and economic asset for development towards contributing to the local economy from the spin-offs it will create from the booming tourism industry in the city. ”

Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development, said: “The film industry has indicated that it will only consider making the necessary large capital investment in the Good Hope Centre should the City be prepared to enter into a lease of a longer duration. The lessee will be responsible for the upkeep, maintenance and security of the property to the satisfaction of the City which will significantly reduce the maintenance costs of the facility during the term of the lease agreement.

“Vendors were given more than four months’ notice in order to look for alternative venues. The City has made every effort to ensure that key international events were not disrupted. The City has also assisted organisations in finding alternative venues for their events.”