Activists to interdict sale of Tafelberg site

Reclaim the City campaign demands a transparent public process

Photo of a woman with a placard

Joselyn Tango holds up a placard in last week’s protest organised by Reclaim the City. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

15 March 2016

The Reclaim the City campaign, supported by activist organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi, and the Western Cape government are at loggerheads over a mediation process proposed as a way to resolve the controversial sale of the Tafelberg School site in Sea Point.

GroundUp reported how on 3 March campaign supporters marched to the site to demand that transfer of the property be halted. On that same day, the provincial government proposed going forward by way of mediation.

But last week, the campaign said the province attached a clause of secrecy and confidentiality.

A press statement, sent out by Reclaim the City last week Thursday, stated: “It is secrecy which allows for dubious back door dealings and elite capture of public land. The time of secret negotiations is past. If the Premier [Helen Zille] wants to really change the game, she must commit to radical reform. That means opening up the evaluation, tendering and disposal of public land to public scrutiny, starting with the Tafelberg site.”

Sea Point resident and campaign supporter, Thandeka Sisusa, said she was against the process being done in secret. “Decisions will be taken without us knowing. We want this process to be public so everyone knows what it going on.”

Provincial Minister of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant said, “Contrary to recent statements made by Ndifuna Ukwazi, the reason for this confidentiality requirement is not to hide something or to act “secretively”, but rather to maintain the integrity of the envisaged mediation process. In fact, we had hoped to achieve exactly the opposite with this condition as it would enable both parties to share documents containing third party information, which by law cannot be publically released.”

Grant said NU added a list of new conditions on Friday 11 March. “Ndifuna Ukwazi has claimed that the sale of the Tafelberg site has been clouded by secrecy, which is entirely untrue. Further, the department advertised a Notice of the Proposed Disposal of Provincial State Land, inviting interested parties to submit representations in writing. At no stage in this process did Ndifuna Ukwazi lodge an objection.

“The organization has falsely claimed that the site was earmarked for affordable housing and then sold to a private developer with no strings attached. The site was in fact earmarked for possible mixed-use development.

“Ndifuna Ukwazi has also publically claimed that the site has been sold to “one wealthy white individual with no strings attached”. The successful bidder for the site is the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School NPC, a matter of public knowledge, who emerged successful following an open tender process. This statement is therefore not only untrue, but deliberately divisive.”

NU’s head of research, Hopolang Selebalo, said that in light of the province’s response on Monday, they were still going to keep on advocating for transparency in the mediation process. NU does not believe that the mediation could have continued without openness.

She said NU was going through with its court action to interdict the transfer of the sale of the site.

Correction: The original headline said that NU (or activists) threatened to interdict the City, but it is the province not the City that owns the land. Our apologies.