WCG Committed to Fair Consideration of All Public Submissions on Tafelberg
Close to 5 000 persons have taken the opportunity to comment during the recent second public consultation period on the proposed sale of the Tafelberg property in Seapoint.
For the process to be meaningful, every single one of those comments deserves a fair and proper consideration before any decision can be taken.
We have no doubt this is in the best interests of the public, and all who took the time to participate in the consultations.
Two rounds of public consultations have been held. The second round arose out of an agreement reached with Ndifuna Ukwazi, representing some of the interested parties who alleged they had not been given an adequate opportunity to comment during the first round.
This agreement was made an order of court, and the time period for public consultation closed on Thursday, 9 June.
When the terms of this order were agreed to, we do not believe anyone foresaw us having to consider close to 5 000 representations within a period of one month. While some of the comments will of course turn out to be simply signatures to a petition, each and every comment will require consideration so as to honour the purpose of a consultative process.
We have approached the two parties to the court order – the Phyllis Jowell School and Ndifuna Ukwazi – to seek their agreement to extend the period past the one month stipulated by the court order. We did this as soon as it became apparent that the time frame to consider submissions would be hopelessly inadequate to do a proper job.
The agreement of these parties would mitigate against us having to waste time and money to formally approach the court with a new application for the extension at this stage of the process, and instead enable us to seek the court’s condonation of this extension, if it becomes necessary.
This is a practical and cost effective manner of ensuring that all comments on Tafelberg can be properly taken into account before any decision is made.
We are of the view that our approach was reasonable, justifiable and in the interests of the public, especially those who made submissions on the matter.
The Phyllis Jowell School has already acceded to our request. However, Ndifuna Ukwazi has advised us that they decline to agree to our request to extend the period for us to consider public comments.
Ndifuna Ukwazi has adopted this stance without providing an understandable explanation for its steadfast refusal to agree that more time is required for us to meaningfully consider all comments. They suffer no prejudice, and will be one of the many who would be disappointed if the entire process is rendered meaningless because of an inability to consider all comments received.
We have asked them to reconsider their stance on this. But should they refuse to do so, our government will be forced to approach the High Court for an order on the extension.
We have no doubt the High Court will agree with us, and further agree that a reasonable amount of additional time to consider all public submissions is warranted and should have been agreed to by Ndifuna Ukwazi.
The attitude taken by Ndifuna Ukwazi to our request is most unfortunate. It also appears to contradict the position they and their clients have taken to date – that their comments on the proposed sale must be taken into account before any decision is made.
The high volume of comments received cannot practically be considered – in a fair, balanced or reasonable manner - within the current timeframe of one month. To force this, would be to deny each request the fair consideration it deserves – undermining the entire public consultation process.
We reiterate our commitment to fulfilling our constitutional mandates, while balancing the various interests and priorities of society, including the creation of viable housing opportunities within stringent budget constraints.