We note the judgement handed down by the Western Cape High Court regarding the decision taken by the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet in March 2017 to sell the old Tafelberg School property in Sea Point to the Phyllis Jowell Day School.
The Western Cape Cabinet, which took that decision, did 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. WCED’s existing headquarters were on a rental basis, and in dire need of repair. The decision to utilize the asset on this basis was disputed by activist groups Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi, which argued that the site should rather have been used for the development of social housing.
Since the initial decision to sell the property was taken by the previous administration over 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, have become even more acute. The government’s COVID-19 response has meant deep cuts on provincial finances which will be felt for years to come, and which will demand of us to be even more innovative in how we meet our financial needs.
In addition, the latest spatial development frameworks at both provincial and municipal level have altered focus in respect of some of the future uses of public land, as has the recently amended housing policy formulations that are now also in place.
We also continue to try and access the local land reserves held by our National Government for the ongoing delivery of our services, including housing, education and health.
With the above key case points in mind, 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.
The WCG is deeply committed to addressing the need of residents for affordable housing and redressing the spatial legacy of apartheid. In this regard, we have a year-round build programme developing a range of affordable housing options which are close to economic and educational opportunities and public transport routes, and which will allow residents to build lives that they value, for themselves and for their families.
Among the projects which seek to achieve the goal of creating dignified and connected living spaces, are the Conradie Better Living Model development in Pinelands, and social housing opportunities incorporated into the development of the Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home site in the Somerset precinct. The Helen Bowden site has already been rezoned to accommodate the intended development, but progress has been completely stalled by the continued occupation of the site, as initially encouraged by Reclaim the City – and which occupants have since refused to vacate.
The Department of Human Settlements is also working hard to address historical biases in home ownership and to simplify and streamline the housing database process to deliver housing to those most deserving, despite significant cuts to national grant funding for housing.