Treasury voices concerns over Tafelberg

It has been just over three weeks since Reclaim the City supporters occupied the Helen Bowden Nurses home and Woodstock Hospital. They are calling for Provincial Government to give firm commitments of social housing at both sites.

The National Treasury Department is the latest body to have voiced its concern over the controversial sale of the Tafelberg site in Sea Point for a R135 million to Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School.

Activist groups had lobbied for the site, which is vacant, to be used for affordable housing. However, after a public participation process, and despite protests against the sale, the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet decided to go through with the sale of the site.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the department said: “South Africa’s cities, including Cape Town remain deeply segregated, exclusionary elements. The persistence of inequality weakens the growth prospect for the country as a whole. All spheres of government need to work together on bold, practical actions to reverse this legacy, and create conditions for faster, more inclusive growth.

“The National Treasury acknowledges that the provincial government has the legal authority to dispose of this property, provided the appropriate and transparent processes are followed. However, the decision to do so flies in the face of its own stated commitment to spatial restructuring and a shared desire for faster more inclusive growth.

“Moreover, the apparent decision to use the proceeds of the sale to fund the development of administrative offices, rather than more immediate and pressing social needs, seems inappropriate.”

The statement concluded by saying that National Treasury could see no significant obstacles to using available national housing subsidies, for social housing on the Tafelberg site.

Meanwhile, it has been just over three weeks since Reclaim the City supporters occupied the Helen Bowden Nurses home in Granger Bay and the Woodstock Hospital (“Reclaim occupy buildings”, Atlantic Sun, March 30).

The occupation of the buildings was part of Reclaim the City’s response to Provincial Cabinet’s decision to sell the Tafelberg site instead of using it for affordable housing.

Reclaim the City have stated, as part of their demands, that they want clear timelines on when the government-owned sites would be used for social housing.

The campaign also held a public meeting in Sea Point last week, to give an update on the occupation of the buildings to their supporters.

Reclaim the City’s Sea Point spokeswoman, Elizabeth Gqoboka, said the number of people occupying the sites had increased to 15.

She also said that they were set to meet this week to discuss the way forward for the campaign.

“We haven’t received a response from Province yet but we want to see a commitment from them. We want both sites to be used for social housing.”

A Reclaim the City statement said this week that the occupation movement was due to “the unlawful sale of the Tafelberg site in Sea Point, which should be used for social housing, not sold for profit.

“We need proper commitments and timelines for these sites and all inner city public land. If we don’t use our good public land to desegregate the city, we will replicate and reinforce the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.”

Michael Mpofu, spokesman for Premier Helen Zille, responded to the statement by the National Treasury on Tuesday April 18. He said: “It would seem Treasury relied on media coverage for its current view that the decision made by the Provincial Cabinet was ‘specifically based on the National Treasury directives for ‘fiscal austerity’ and revenue enhancement’.

He added that there was no single reason for the decision to sell the Tafelberg site.

“The need for fiscal austerity in the current economic climate was indeed one of them.

“However it was by no means the only reason for the decision. It constituted one amongst a range of factors, in a complex situation, taken into account by the Cabinet.

“We took the decision following the outcome of the national salary negotiations, that left us in a fiscal crisis. The national government could not bridge this, and Treasury accordingly advised us.”