Tafelberg School sale set aside

The old Tafelberg School site in Sea Point. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

The decision to sell the old Tafelberg School site in Sea Point has been reviewed and set aside.

The judgment was delivered in the Western Cape High Court on Monday August 31.

High court judges, Patrick Gamble and Monde Samela found that both the Western Cape Government and City had failed to comply with their constitutional and legislative obligations to address apartheid spatial planning in Cape Town.

The matter dates back to 2015 when the provincial government sold the property to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, for R135 million.

Housing rights groups Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi challenged the decision by the provincial government to sell the 1.7 hectares property located on Main Road in Sea Point.

The decision to sell the property site was questioned by several role-players, including the National Treasury, which said this decision was in stark contrast to repeated government policy statements on the importance of reintegrating urban areas in South Africa, particularly through pursuing opportunities to provide affordable housing to poor, working people who must otherwise commute long distances to work.

The housing rights groups argued that the Tafelberg site – which spans almost an entire city block – provides a prime opportunity to redress spatial apartheid through the provision of well-located land for social housing.

Social housing, they added, was a critical tool not only to address the persistent demand for affordable housing in Cape Town but also to restructure cities.

They said 25 years after apartheid, Cape Town remained one of the most spatially divided cities in the country, with residential settlement patterns still segregated along race and class lines.

The court instructed the provincial government and City to address the legacy of apartheid spatial planning in central Cape Town and its surrounds. Judge Gamble and Judge Samela ordered the province and the City to draw up a combined policy to address their respective breaches of the Constitution’ and to report back by May next year.

The Province and the City were also ordered to pay Reclaim the City’s legal costs.

The national Department of Human Settlements also launched a separate application against the province over the decision arguing that the provincial government had not informed the national Department of Human Settlements that it had sold the site.

The court ruled the national Minister of Human Settlements should have been consulted on the sale of the land and granted the application by the Minister of Human Settlements and her department to review and set aside the sale of the property, ordering the province to pay the national minister’s legal bill.

Ndifuna Ukwazi activist and lawyer, Mandisa Shandu said the housing group activists had affirmed the province and the City’s obligations to combat spatial apartheid by progressively giving people access to land and housing in central Cape Town. “This has been four years in the making but it’s really about over 400 years of spatial exclusion,”she said.

National Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, welcomed the judgement, which, she said, had made it possible for government through the Social Housing and Regulatory Authority (SHRA) to build social housing units for the qualifying beneficiaries while redressing spatial apartheid in central Cape Town.

“We remain committed to responding to the housing needs of our people. This will only be achieved if we have access to well-located land parcels and spheres of government availing such state-owned land for human settlements development,” she said.

In a statement released to the media,

Premier Alan Winde, said they had noted the judgement and pointed out that the Western Cape cabinet, which decided on the sale, had done so in order to raise much needed funding over and above scarce national government resources, for the development of new Western Cape Education Department headquarters in Cape Town.

He said the WCED’s existing headquarters were being rented, and in dire need of repair. He said since the initial decision to sell the property was taken by the previous administration more than five years ago, the circumstances which informed that sale, including the financial needs and priorities of the Western Cape Government and of the South African Government as a whole, had become even more acute.

“We will be studying the judgement, which is over 200 pages long, in detail and in consultation with our legal counsel and that of our custodian Public Works Department before determining any next step in this matter,” he said.