Turn Tafelberg into affordable housing, pleads novelist

“To sell off the Tafelberg land is to discard the opportunity to plan for a city that is built on integration, compassion, trust and justice.”

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Graphic of proposed affordable housing project for Tafelberg
This is what the Tafelberg site could have looked like according to a 2012 feasibility study by the Social Housing Regulatory Authority. A private developer has bought the land from the provincial government.

Renowned South African novelist, Margie Orford, has written a heartfelt plea for the state-owned Tafelberg property in Sea Point to be turned into affordable housing.

Cape Town is a complex, cosmopolitan place. For its whole history, our beautiful Mother City has stitched into its architectural and social fabric the pain of our history of slavery and colonialism. Its vibrancy is testimony to our great capacity to find ways to be that imagined thing: a South African. Cape Town has a rich literary heritage and this place is reflected in some of the earliest literary works. From the oral histories of the Khoi San to the great Lusiads by the Portuguese poet, Camoes.

This city was dismembered by apartheid planning. People who had lived together in an uneasy truce around racism and poverty were ripped out of their homes and dumped in places that broke hearts and communities. The highways and the railway lines act as barriers. They also act as garrottes - in that the spatial segregation is choking the oxygen out of this beautiful place.

Imagination, compassion and vision is what we need in how we plan the city. To sell off the Tafelberg land is to discard the opportunity to plan for a city that is built on integration, compassion, trust and justice. The development of low income and mixed income housing for Capetonians is central to this. This is more than a planning exercise. This is a moral and aesthetic test that, if we pass it as a community, as a city, will set us on the track of reconciliation. If we fail it we will condemn this vibrant, fertile place to being a sterile, enclosed gated enclave for the very rich.

This is an opportunity to restore Cape Town’s heart and soul. To atone, to make peace with our history and to lay the foundation for a different kind of future.

Do not squander this. Have courage. This city is infinitely creative. We can do it.

Views expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.

TOPICS:  Government Housing Tafelberg

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