On this Workers’ Day, Reclaim the City members have taken over the Green Point Bowling Green. We are protesting for affordable housing to be built on this piece of land for the workers who keep the City in business, but still cannot access housing in this City. We are digging the foundations and laying the bricks for new homes for the workers who keep the City in business.
The Green Point Bowling Green is 27,000m2 of public land owned by the City of Cape Town. It is is bigger than two soccer fields and includes bowling greens, vacant fenced-off land and two clubhouses.
Like in other cities throughout the world, it is the working class that has been forced to live in the outskirts and in inhumane conditions. For more than a century, International Workers’ Day has been celebrated to denounce the conditions of workers including the lack of decent housing across the world. It is through our labour that the City of Cape Town was built, and yet there is still no place for us.
We are carers and cleaners. We are security guards, clerks, waitrons and shop attendants. We are teachers and nurses. We know that Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson is the real power in the City controlling finance and access to land. We are peacefully protesting to hold Ian Neilson accountable for the commitments made a year ago to build affordable housing on this land. He must do what he promised.
In May 2018, Ian Neilson said: “It is our intention to have a mixed-use development which includes affordable housing and will be informed by the outcome of the required statutory processes and the most feasible modelling to ensure a successful development.”
Former Mayco Member Brett Herron went further. He said that the City of Cape Town would build a mixed use development including affordable housing on the Green Point Bowling Green for residents earning between R1,500 and R15,000 a month. Just like at the Salt River Market, the City would lease or sell the land to a social housing company at a nominal amount keeping the homes affordable for years to come.
However, on the 14th of November 2018 Brett Herron said, “…a cabal is blocking the progress of that project… they have told the officials and other politicians that it is too close to the election to proceed with the project.”
We are aware that the lease for the land came to an end on the 30th of April 2019. Nearly a year since these commitments, there is no progress for affordable housing on the site and the field remains empty.
Our Constitution says that the state must use land, including its land for redress, transformation and addressing inequality. The City is specifically required to redistribute land for housing, but instead has shown that it no vision and rolls over leases on our best land every year. Post apartheid, millions of working-class people still live in informal settlements, are vulnerably housed, and cannot access or afford housing. The City has failed to use its land to address this housing crisis. Promises have been made on several parcels of land in this City, and yet, not one brick as been laid. Not one affordable housing unit has been built in the inner-city and surrounds by the post-democratic government. Can our City be trusted to prioritise the transformative value of land and use it as a tool to truly bring about a more just and equal Cape Town?
The Green Point Bowling Green is an example of the City’s failure to redistribute land and prioritise the needs of poor and working-class residents. The City continues to lease out the site to Glen Green Sports Centre for a mere R1,000 a year. This is an unfair, unequal, and unprincipled approach to the use of well-located, public land.
We stand in solidarity with Workers of Cape Town who continue to struggle for access to dignified housing and an inclusive city where they will have the same access to the same opportunities as the wealthy. As we raise our banners and our voices, we remember our people in South Africa who sacrificed for our freedom and the Recognition of May Day as public holiday in South Africa.
This Workers’ Day, we continue to make the call for land to be redistributed for the poor and working class. We are here to demand Ian Neilson not to renew the lease of Green Point Bowling Green and to stand by his commitment to use this land for affordable housing. We are here to hold the City to account for commitments made to build affordable housing on this site, in the Foreshore, in the Inner City, in Woodstock and in Salt River and on other city leased land.
Promises do not make homes. When will the City lay the first brick? When will the City finish the project?
[For more information, a recently published report that addresses city leases and what is possible can be found here: https://goo.gl/m8W3uV]