Residents urged to stand up against developers

MATTHEW HIRSCH

“Sea Point residents must not be afraid of justice”. This was the message expressed by social activist Zackie Achmat at a protest last week.

Mr Achmat, who rose to prominence through his involvement with the Treatment Action Campaign, is the co-director of Ndifuna Ukwazi, an organisation which is at the centre of a debate with the province over the sale of four pockets of prime land in the area, among them the site of the old Tafelberg School, the Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home, the Alfred Street Complex and the Top Yard garage in Gardens

He said they were protesting because the Tafelberg site had been sold by the provincial government to a private developer “after promising it for mixed-use development”.

“This land belongs to all of us and we have asked the province to stop the transfer of this sale,” he said, adding that the Department of Public Works, which owns the land, had agreed to stop the sale of the land for 30 days, with the agreement that they would not go to court in the interim.

He also said that government wanted to keep the process confidential, which they were prepared to do only while the process was under way.

“But we are not going to hide a single document afterwards,” he said.

“To the residents of Sea Point, don’t be afraid to share your wealth. Don’t be afraid of justice. You have domestic and retail workers who are being charged huge amounts of money. We say to you that this is unjust. For 20 years we have waited; we won’t wait any longer. We believe that whether you come from Congo or Khayelitsha you have a right to live in our city.”

He promised that if the land was not set aside for housing for the poor, the organisation’s members would return in their thousands.

Kopano Maroga, a UCT student who was at the protest last week, said the campaign was a very important one to him. “The space is close to jobs for people that work here but (they are) having to commute (from far) and spending half of what they earn on transport. This campaign is reddressing the special, urban planning that was instituted by Apartheid (regime). In the Western Cape space those kinds of special divisions have remained. It’s about spatial and economic justice,” he added.

Mandisa Shandu, an attorney at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said there had been a discussion with provincial government last week. At the protest, the group decided to go forward with the mediation process. “This decision is very important for us because it means that the work that has been done by Reclaim the City is working. They are considering suspending the transfer of the property until they meet and negotiate with us. This means we will have to think differently about if and when we go to court on this issue. This is a very important and strategic opportunity for us.” Reclaim The City is a campaign that has questioned the goverment’s decision to sell these properties to private developers.

Siphesihle Dube, Spokesperson for theTransport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant, said that they had agreed to meet with Ndifuna Ukwazi to discuss the concerns raised in correspondence. However, Mr Dube added that: “It is not entirely correct to term these upcoming discussions as a ‘negotiation’.”

He also said that while the sale of the site had been concluded, it had not yet been transfered to the new owners, the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School NPC.

“There are numerous requirements to be completed by both parties in a transaction before property can be transferred and new ownership can be registered with the Deeds Registry. The other three properties have not been put up for tender. This statement is incorrect. No decision has been taken regarding those three sites,” added Mr Dube.