Cape Town - The controversial auctioning off of the SABC’s Sea Point residential property, Rocklands Villas, was called off literally at the 11th hour after the high court granted an urgent interdict to the Housing Development Agency (HDA) and the Department of Human Settlements (DHS).
The interdict, which was granted an hour before Aucor Property auctioneer Pieter Geldenhuys could call for the bidding to start, argued that the auction was in breach of the state-owned enterprises' non-core property disposal policy, and broad-based BEE guidelines.
These are the regulations that all SOEs, including the SABC, have to follow when selling their land and buildings.
Under the policy, an SOE may not sell or dispose of any property unless it has first offered that property to the state and other SOEs, through the Department of Public Enterprises.
The HDA and DHS argued that the SABC did not offer the property to other organs of state, such as themselves, who rely on public land and housing to deliver affordable homes and redress spatial apartheid.
They argued that the SABC also breached the policy by planning to auction off Rocklands Villa to the highest bidder, despite the policy making it clear that “under no circumstances will state immovable property be sold by auction”.
The SABC recently announced that it intended to sell non-core properties which include more than 20 houses and 60 flats, as part of the organisation’s turnaround strategy.
The auctioneers had described the property as being presented with “vacant occupation on a sought-after position between Beach Road and Main Road.”
The property sits on five erven with a block of flats boasting 14 units, set over three erven and the remaining two erven, which can be used as a parking, measures 900m².
In the run-up to the ministry’s court action, the provincial ANC had also petitioned Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to delay the auction for three months, to allow the department first option on the building.
Following the successful interdict provincial ANC leader Cameron Dugmore said: “This is a blow against the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.
“It’s now time for concrete programmes to build social and affordable well-located housing on well-located land in the City of Cape Town and all our towns. Credit must also go to all NGOs and social housing groups who have campaigned for inner-city housing.”
Good MPL Brett Herron said: “Well-located properties like the Tafelberg School and the SABC flats in Sea Point offer meaningful opportunities for the development of affordable inner city housing.
“The opportunities should never be sold off without regard to their role in land reform and integrating apartheid cities.”
Meanwhile, about 40 housing activists and members of the lobby groups Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi had gathered to occupy the Sea Point property.
Police, who had come to the site, forcefully removed the occupiers and arrested some of them for trespassing.
One activist, Elizabeth Qgoboka, said she had worked in Sea Point as a domestic worker for more than 30 years.
“As a group of domestic workers and caretakers living in Sea Point, we came and occupied this building in 1996, as we were working but had nowhere to stay.
“After we occupied the building we came to negotiate with the SABC, and they told us the place was not for sale and we couldn’t live there as it was a monument. So, it came as a surprise to see the notice on the lamppost saying that the property was up for auction,” Qgoboka said.
Ndifuna Ukwazi researcher and advocacy officer Michael Clarke said the group supported the HDA and DHS's calls for spatial and land reform as articulated in their founding affidavit.
“The Tafelberg case reminds us that access to well-located land is one of the primary drivers of continued spatial inequality.
“Land is scarce and finite and in the context of a land and housing crisis, it cannot be simply disposed of through a swift transaction or auction where there are other pressing needs.”