Cape Town – Two separate legal battles against the Western Cape government’s decision to sell the multimillion-rand Tafelberg site to a private entity is set to play itself out in court.
Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s department, as well as land and housing activists, will petition the Western Cape High Court in renewed efforts to force provincial authorities to develop the site to include affordable housing.
Sisulu maintains Premier Helen Zille and her provincial executive embarked on an alleged flawed process when they entertained selling the piece of land to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million.
Sisulu’s spokesperson, Vusi Tshose, said the department “did not just jump to the courts” and had written to Zille’s office to declare an official dispute when the sale was given the green light earlier this year, following a public participation process.
Sisulu will also ask the court to enforce the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (Giama), which states that when a sphere of government intends to dispose of, in this case a piece of land, other spheres need to be consulted regarding the asset in question, Tshose said.
“We were not afforded that opportunity,” Tshose said, adding that the department would be filing papers “in two or three weeks’ time”.
In its urgent court application filed earlier this month, Reclaim the City, which is one of six applicants, accuses provincial government of having “failed to comply with its constitutional obligations to redress the effects of spatial apartheid planning in central Cape Town”.
“Reclaim the City supporters have always said that the decision to sell the Tafelberg site was unlawful. When Premier Helen Zille sold poor and working-class residents out, we instructed our lawyers to review the decision."
“We stand behind the application brought before the Western Cape High Court by the Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre,” the organisation said.
Speaking on behalf of cabinet, Zille’s spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, had previously challenged detractors to have the decision to sell the property “tried and tested in a court of law”.
Mpofu said provincial government had earmarked affordable housing projects situated at “larger and better sites than Tafelberg”.
These included the Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home in Green Point, the old Woodstock Hospital and the old Conradie Hospital site in Pinelands, which will be developed next year.
Mpofu added there was “a range of reasons” for the decision to sell the Tafelberg site.
“The need for fiscal austerity ... constituted one of a range of factors, in a complex situation, taken into account by cabinet,” he said.