The province’s largest suburbs - Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha - are no longer served by Metrorail or MyCiTi buses. On these injustices - which cost the economy billions due to higher commuter costs and worse congestion - the MEC is silent. FILE PHOTO: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
The province’s largest suburbs - Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha - are no longer served by Metrorail or MyCiTi buses. On these injustices - which cost the economy billions due to higher commuter costs and worse congestion - the MEC is silent. FILE PHOTO: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Action needed on Western Cape housing and transport

By Brett Herron Time of article published Mar 12, 2020

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On Tuesday, Finance MEC David Maynier presented his budget speech to the provincial legislature. The message was good, but lacked detail.

I hope that these nice words will not become more empty promises. During last year’s elections, Maynier’s government promised a job in every home. After the elections, we have not heard how that promise is to be delivered.

Maynier’s reference to a vision of “a safe Western Cape where everyone prospers” is a nice phrase, but we are all aware that the Western Cape is an unsafe province.

Crime and violence have been enabled by a decade of the DA ensuring that the spatially unjust patterns of apartheid are not just maintained, but reinforced. The DA does this by keeping poor people far away from opportunity - kept far away in existing, or new, apartheid-style townships.

The whole country has witnessed how the DA refused access to public land that they control - the Foreshore, Woodstock, inner city or Tafelberg properties - to develop well-located, affordable housing. All these projects are stopped or the properties sold off to private developers rather than using the land, which belongs to the public, for public good.

Last year, Premier Alan Winde offered Forest Village as evidence of the DA provincial government’s commitment to spatial justice. Forest Village is a sea of thousands of Breaking New Ground homes located more than 30km from the Cape Town CBD.

Pushing poor people to the extremities of our towns and cities means they remain at the edges of the economy, too. A recent study showed that black South Africans endure the longest commutes in the world.

The cost, and lost time of these commutes are cruel reinforcements of the spatial development plans of the National Party’s apartheid.

Housing is a critical need in the Western Cape and I welcome the additional funds that the national government has allocated to the province.

There are more than 550000 families waiting on the province’s housing database and we need to reduce that number fast. But that housing must be built in good locations so that we can break free of our apartheid past and its idea that separateness is normal.

I would also like the province to keep tabs on the City, where the largest demand for housing exists. The DA’s new leaders have collapsed housing delivery in Cape Town - decreasing delivery of new housing opportunities by 28% last year.

Housing projects - many of which would have cost ratepayers nothing because the only contribution from local government was of available vacant public land - have been stopped.

Accelerating the delivery of housing can thus be achieved without any additional provincial or City funds. Maynier says he wants more housing in good locations, but his government prevents this. If the MEC is committed to better-located housing, he must get his party to restart housing projects, and he can cut off funds to the province’s lawyers fighting against housing at its Tafelberg property.

Brett Herron. File picture: David Loff/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Spatial justice is also linked to public transport - making sure people can access other parts of towns and cities. In speaking about promoting mobility, the MEC made no reference to the stopped MyCiTi bus service or Metrorail services that have collapsed.

The province’s largest suburbs - Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha - are no longer served by Metrorail or MyCiTi buses. On these injustices - which cost the economy billions due to higher commuter costs and worse congestion - the MEC is silent.

Where is the provincial government’s action to resolve this? In 2018, I ensured that the province, Metrorail and the City worked jointly - across all three spheres of government - to secure the rail network in Cape Town. The launch of the country’s first rail enforcement unit reduced crime along, and sabotage of, the rail network almost immediately. Some similar out-of-the-box thinking is needed now.

I welcome the MEC’s commitment to making government more efficient and his support for the national minister of Finance’s call to cut costs. I encourage him to act on this and join me in opposing the DA’s proposal to increase the number of seats for politicians in the Western Cape. Their proposed 24-42% increase in the number of politicians on the government payroll is ludicrous.

Last, it was International Women’s Day earlier this week. When Maynier speaks to the progress our province is making in securing renewable energy for municipalities, I remind him that it was Good’s leader, Patricia de Lille, who took the then minister of Energy to court in 2016.

It was that action which has led to the rights of municipalities and metros being recognised. It is disingenuous for men to claim the glory for the work that women have done.

* Brett Herron is the secretary-general of the Good party, and a member of the legislature.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus


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