Reclaim the City airs Premier Helen Zille’s dirty laundry at SOPA debate – 21 Feb 2017
Today, supporters of Reclaim the City joined the debate on Premier Helen Zille’s State of the Province address at Provincial Parliament. The Premier is accountable to the residents of this Province. This is the time and the place to answer our questions on her lack of progress on providing public land for people, and not for profit.
It has been over a year since she unlawfully sold the Tafelberg site in Sea Point, but twenty years since any new affordable housing was built in the inner city. No new land has been allocated to social housing this year. What is she waiting for? Other questions also remain:
Why is the Premier selling our public land?
In January 2016, it emerged that the Western Cape Department of Public Works sold Tafelberg, in spite of calls from its own Human Settlements Department, the City of Cape Town and Social Housing Institutions that it be reserved for social housing. Sustained pressure in the courts and on the streets has forced the Premier to temporarily stop the sale. After an extended public participation period, the Premier and her cabinet must now decide on the future of the Tafelberg site. We demand as always that Tafelberg and other well-located public land, like the Woodstock Hospital site, should be reserved for affordable housing in a time of worsening segregation, housing shortage and inequality in Cape Town.
Why no Gary Fisher inquiry?
In July last year, City Press reported on Gary Fisher’s R190 million conflict of interest in the sale of the Tafelberg school site. Fisher was the Head of Department at Public Works who oversaw the Tafelberg sale. Fisher used inside knowledge of this sale to invest, through his company CapitalGro, in property around the Tafelberg site. The Premier did not investigate this conflict of interest for potential corruption. Instead, she ducked and dived in the Provincial Parliament in September, saying that she “had no knowledge and [she] does not have to have any knowledge of what the private sector does in the Western Cape or Cape Town”. This is unacceptable and may indicate that private property investors are at free to capture our state decision making processes surrounding public land for private gain. We demand an independent inquiry into whether Fisher personally benefitted from his time at Public Works.
What’s under the Dorp Street deal?
In July 2016, leaks reported in GroundUp revealed that the Provincial Government had ring-fenced the proceeds from the Tafelberg sale to fund the spiraling costs of an unaffordable R1.2 Billion mega-project at the Dorp Street precinct in the Cape Town CBD. Zille’s administration has not responded to accusations that it sold an important piece of public land to prop up a failing and unaffordable mega-project. We have since heard that the project has been quietly shelved. Considering the costs to the public confirm publicly if this is true and state the reasons.
Is the Provincial Property Committee Broken?
Leaks during the course of last year also revealed that the Provincial Property Committee – an interdepartmental body supposed to ensure due process in the disposal public land was dysfunctional, unaccountable and co-opted by Public Works and willing to rubber stamp property disposals despite opposition from the Department of Human Settlements responsible for delivering social housing.
“The Provincial Portfolio is in excess of R75 billion,” complained independent member Bovain McNab to colleagues in an email in September 2015. “The way this is operated, in my view, repeatedly fails our people and is in complete contravention of the constitution, the law, and the regulations. Worst of all, no one ever seems held to account. Where is the performance measurement and where is the [Auditor General] in all of this?”
It is time for the Premier to show leadership in addressing the crisis of segregation, housing shortage and inequality in Cape Town. She must take a hard stance on officials in her government who abuse their positions to further their own capital interests. She must protect our public land assets from those who seek to plunder them. She must ensure that the mechanisms set up as custodians of our public land are accountable and transparent. She must prove to the people of the Western Cape that she is committed to reversing the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.
Such a commitment begins with a firm decision to stop the sale of the Tafelberg site to a private buyer and to commit this and other prime land parcels to affordable housing development. Working class black African and Coloured people have a right to return to, live in and access dignified housing in the Cape Town inner-city.