PHA struggle is our struggle

Patrick Dowling,the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), governance panel

The impassioned and last-ditch letter published in several media pages across the Cape, about the Philippi Horticultural Area and its future by Nazeer Sonday refers, (“Save the PHA farms”, Atlantic Sun, October 10).

The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) fully endorses and applauds the efforts by a small local group to take on so vigorously and interrogate so consistently proposals to change irrevocably so large and important a part of the Cape Town landscape.

By giving way to market forces, criminality and urbanisation pressures, we believe that the authorities involved have reneged on their obligations and mandate to promote sustainability.

In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, already being felt around the world, custodianship of water resources and local food security has to be amplified not compromised.

More than a thousand local authorities globally have already declared climate emergencies, many this year, and such a motion will be considered by Cape Town soon.

Whether declared formally or experienced literally, what this “state” means is that the business-as-usual model has to be radically re-evaluated if the emergency is to be dealt with. The label alone will not suffice.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that came into force and were signed off by South Africa in 2016 offer guidance about responding appropriately.

As one development agency puts it: “SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. In order to meet it, we must also address underlying structural problems tied with poverty, lack of access to education, employment and health care, climate change, water and resource scarcity and others.”

Nobody said this would be simple and easy, but try we must.

Then, in order to promote equitable access to clean water and healthy sanitation, both of which are under pressure in Cape Town, there is goal six that emphasises the protection of natural systems such as wetlands and aquifers.

Impacts on both of these will intensify if the paving-over ambitions, currently proposed for the PHA, are finally approved.

When the PHA campaign group gets its day in court, the outcome will not be about which limited-scope interest is served but whether visionary action can prevail over short-term expediency.

WESSA wishes success to the PHA campaign and encourages the public to stand behind them. Their struggle is for all of us.

Mea Lashbrooke, Bergvliet

Congratulations are due to Nazeer Sonday, chairman of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) Campaign, on his excellent letter to the mayor of Cape Town; a letter that sets out all the facts and contradictions of the City’s leniency during a developer’s bid to rezone agricultural land for development at Philippi.

There is no praise for the citizens of Cape Town, however, who have been shockingly lethargic and uncaring with regard to the unfolding of events during the ten-year-long campaign to save the PHA.

This is land that should be maintained for their use, but they do not care. They have not heeded the call to defend this land.

Nor do they care about the missed job opportunities and upskilling, and the certain lack of income for several thousands, if development goes ahead.

And what about the threat to the underlying aquifer?

Perhaps Capetonians do not understand the importance of this, despite the high profile that water scarcity enjoys today. Or are our citizens simply enjoying the last moments of fiddling while Rome burns?

Further, it is a travesty that the PHA Campaign is approaching the Western Cape High Court (with limited funds contributed by a few Cape Town citizens) to secure justice for all citizens, while the developers, whom the PHA is up against, enjoy the support of the City that will be using the citizen’s taxes for this purpose.

None of this makes sense.