City lost R140 million it could have spent on poor people, say protesters

Housing activists protest at offices of Growthpoint Properties in Cape Town

Photo of protesters

Ndifuna Ukwazi’s Nkosikhona Swartbooi addresses protesters outside the offices of Growthpoint Properties in Claremont. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

By Sophia Wilhelm

4 October 2018

About 20 members of Reclaim the City (RTC), an affordable housing activist group, protested outside the local offices of Growthpoint Properties in Claremont on Thursday. They demanded answers from the company following the announcement by Mayor Patricia De Lille that a forensic investigation will be conducted into the controversial Foreshore deal between Growthpoint and the City of Cape Town.

In 2016, Growthpoint bought a 3,939m2 piece of prime development land on the Foreshore (Site B) for R86.5 million. According to RTC this was at least R100 million less than the site was worth, “money that could be spent on helping the poor”.

Earlier this week, Mayor Patricia de Lille requested a forensic investigation into the sale which may have lost the City up to R140 million. GroundUp previously reported that the City had not properly explained the property deal.

RTC members chanted and held up signs with photographs of the deal-makers and questions they want them to answer. A sign with Growthpoint CEO Norbert Sasse on it asked: “When did you know the land was undervalued? Before or after the auction? How did you find out? Do you think you paid a fair price? How many houses could be built with the money you saved? Will you now pay more or give our land back?”

Nkosikhona Swartbooi, head of organising at housing activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi, said a few weeks ago the organisation discovered that Growthpoint paid for 17,000m2 of bulk rights (which determine the size of the building on the site) when it should’ve paid for 46,000m2 of bulk rights.

“I stay in Khayelitsha and I stayed in a shack for more than 14 years of my life. My mom and my sister had to use the bush to relieve themselves … I know the impact of not having basic services and that comes with housing. They’re [the City] saying there is no land available, when they’re selling our land to the private sector,” said Swartbooi.

Sasse was not on site. Head of Corporate Communications Nadine Kuzmanich addressed the protesters. She said Growthpoint was not in a position to answer the questions and asked that the protesters give the company 21 days. She said that Growthpoint was still engaging with the City.

“If we don’t hear from you on the 25 October, we will be back. We have a reputation of going to people’s houses,” said Swartbooi.

Minor factual corrections were made to this article shortly after publication. The headline was also changed to reflect that activists claim R140 million was lost by the City, not R100 million.