Tafelberg site ruling to be appealed

The old Tafelberg School site in Sea Point.

The housing activist organisation, Ndifuna Ukwazi has slammed provincial government’s decision to appeal the Tafelberg judgment handed down by the Western Cape High Court last month.

After the court set aside the R135 million sale of the former Tafelberg school site, the successful bidder, the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, indicated that it would not be pursuing the purchase of the property further.

When the Atlantic Sun contacted the school, they said they would not be speaking to the media about this matter.

The Western Cape government, however, said it would be applying for leave to appeal the court ruling due to the “extensive nature of the finding” and its potential implications.

Premier Alan Winde and Transport and Public Works MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela issued a joint statement to the media.

“To be clear, notwithstanding any return of the property to the provincial portfolio that may ensue, an appeal is still required in respect of the extensive nature of the finding and order of the court underlying its decision on the sale itself, given their impact for all government departments and organs of state which would, if unchallenged, be binding henceforth.”

They said the decision to sell the Tafelberg site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, had been taken in the previous political term, and by a cabinet different to the current one.

“The Western Cape government can now confirm that, after reflecting on the recent judgment handed down by the Western Cape High Court, the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School have indicated to us that they do not intend to pursue their rights under this contract of sale any further – a decision which we believe will result in the mutual termination of the sale agreement and the return of the property to the Western Cape government’s property portfolio.

“Its return to our portfolio will give us the opportunity to reconsider its future use in light of the priorities of this new administration and I am grateful to the board of Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for informing us of their decision in this regard and which will allow its use to be considered afresh,” they said.

“Our government now intends to engage widely and with all those interested, as we work towards building a fairer, more inclusive Western Cape”.

However, they said, the engagements must and will be premised on respect for the rule of law in the province and country and that incitement to illegally invade property, including land that is already earmarked for social housing, must come to an end.

“We therefore call on Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi to join us in condemning the illegal occupation of Helen Bowden Nursing Home and other properties which have been earmarked for affordable housing in central Cape Town and to make every effort not to further hamper our efforts to develop these sites for our most vulnerable residents,” they said.

In response to this, Ndifuna Ukwazi described the decision to appeal the ruling as irreconcilable with Mr Winde’s public commitments to unlock the blockages that prevented the Tafelberg site from being used for the development of social housing.

They said Mr Winde had promised that where the province was involved, the MECs responsible would commit to unlocking, where they could, inner-city land for the development of social housing.

“Instead of delivering on these promises, Premier Winde has chosen to follow the former Premier Helen Zille’s line of command and defend the indefensible by defending not only the unlawful and unreasonable decision to sell the Tafelberg site, but also the province’s failure to fulfil its constitutional obligation to use its land to advance spatial equality. And, in doing so, spending exorbitant amounts of public money fighting civil society in the courts rather than showing leadership and acquiescing to its constitutional and legislative obligations,” they said.