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Cape Town - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has added his voice to widespread protests against a proposed shopping mall at Princess Vlei, speaking out against the destruction of “our beautiful world” for short-term profit.
In a statement to the Princess Vlei Forum, Tutu said: “I would like to express my support for the campaign to save the greater Princess Vlei area from the inappropriate development of a shopping mall, and for its protection in perpetuity as a nature and heritage park. Princess Vlei is a valuable place for citizens to come to be close to God and nature, to find peace and to build family and community.
“God has carefully crafted our universe; let us stop destroying our beautiful world for the sake of short-term profit. Let us use our laws to safeguard our natural and cultural heritage.”
The forum said on Monday that Princess Vlei, on the border separating where formerly white and coloured areas under the apartheid government, was ideally located to build bridges between communities of different races.
“It is a much loved gathering place for communities from surrounding areas. Before the Group Areas Act, landowners of all races lived on its banks,” the forum said.
The organisation has been fighting against the development of a shopping mall and taxi rank on public space at the vlei, one of the few green lungs on the Cape Flats.
On Monday the forum called on Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille to heed Tutu’s call and finally put a stop to plans to build the mall.
The forum said it had welcomed De Lille’s recent recommendation to withdraw the decision to re-zone public space on Sea Point promenade to allow commercial development, and instead to keep it as public open space.
However, the Sea Point decision had come “in the wake of a protracted and expensive legal battle, financed by our taxes and by civil society. We are anxious to avoid similar expense in the fight to save Princess Vlei. Public-private funding could be used so much more constructively to transform this site into a world-class nature and heritage park.”
The forum quoted De Lille’s comments last week about the Sea Point promenade. De Lille said the city had a legacy of apartheid spatial planning, and as part of the city’s commitment to being a caring city, “we must grab all of the shared spaces we can to foster a new sense of community… I hope we will be able to set an example for creating combined spaces in the future by preserving those that we have in the here and now”.
The forum urged De Lille to stand by the comments she had made with regard to the Sea Point promenade, and to work with the local community that used Princess Vlei to make the vision of “a caring city” a reality.