The level of #ApartheidDenialism (denying the effects and consequences of apartheid, specifically apartheid spatial planning) seems to be on the increase. Picture: Ross Jansen/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
The level of #ApartheidDenialism (denying the effects and consequences of apartheid, specifically apartheid spatial planning) seems to be on the increase. Picture: Ross Jansen/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Cape Town, a real tale of two cities

By Lester September Time of article published Nov 21, 2019

Share this article:

The level of #ApartheidDenialism (denying the effects and consequences of apartheid, specifically apartheid spatial planning) seems to be on the increase, especially if one analyses the attitude to development, recreation and environment in different parts of Cape Town, which once again highlights our tale of two cities.

In Green Point, World Cup related investment of between R7billion to R15bn (depending on who you believe) in public funds was ploughed into their Green Point Urban Park and surrounds, where we find the City of Cape Town seemingly reversing its decision to invest in affordable social and inclusive housing on the bowling green in the urban park.

The community also wishes to have the urban park declared a heritage site, despite calls to reverse Apartheid Spatial Planning through the creation and promotion of inner city (CBD and 10km radius) and inner suburb (along the M4 main road that runs from Central Cape Town to and through the southern suburbs and 1km surrounds) affordable social housing.

In contrast, Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus McKenzie, chairperson of the City’s Spatial Planning, Environment and Transport Portfolio Committee, who initially opposed social housing in Salt River, wants to cram low-cost housing on this overcrowded benighted community’s recreational space.

Even though the World Health Organisation advises that the development and/or upgrading of social development infrastructure, in sub economic areas as found on the Cape Flats, can reduce violent crime (murder, rape, gang violence, etc) and related social ills (domestic violence, substance abuse, gang recruitment and gangsterism etc) by at least 30%.

Bearing this in mind, it is worthwhile noting that the City’s resource centre reveals that Green Point has historically about 4344 households, where taking the more conservative World Cup related investment into the suburb, this translates to a cost benefit of about R1.61m per capita investment into each household.

If the City were to aim for the same cost benefit per household in Bontehuwel, they would have to invest about R17.8bn into this apartheid created gangland’s recreational and community spaces. But instead, in their wisdom, the City prefers cramming more houses into this sub-economic ghetto, despite the tangible and gaping deficit in social development infrastructure.

Green Point historically experiences very low population density rates, of about two occupants per household, with unemployment at about 6%, low rates of violent crime, with concurrent high levels of economic inclusion; seen in 34.4% of households earning between R51201pm to more than R102401pm, 41.8% households earning below R51201pm, and 40% earning below R25601pm, due to a CBD propinquity of 10 minutes.

This proximity to the CBD, that experiences 85% of Cape Town’s economic activity, and absorbs over 1000 jobs per hectare, stands in contrast to the consequences of Bonteheuwel location, where households carry a high financial burden, seen historically in a 34% unemployment rate, which rises to 59% if you include economically inactive residents. While research also shows that industrial nodes - to which Bonteheuwel residents are referred to look for work - only absorb about 135 jobs per hectare, where 74% of Bonteheuwel households earn below R6401pm, 52% of households earn below R3201pm, and 32% of households earn below R1601pm.

Applying research by the New Climate Economy, a flagship project of the London School of Economics, Stockholm Sustainability Institute and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, we find that Bonteheuwel suffers, historically from an overcrowding rate of 109 residents per hectare based on its location to economic opportunity and population size of 53000 (estimates place it at 70000 residents today) crammed into 3.55km2.

Accommodating the additional 17000 residents in this already overcrowded sub-economic ghetto, increases financial stress per household to unsustainable levels, while increasing risks of related violent crime and social ills.

It is therefore disturbing that the City wishes to remove recreational spaces in Bonteheuwel for low-cost housing, while actively resisting the need to reverse apartheid spatial planning through affordable housing in the inner city and inner suburbs, since about 2008, where affected Capetonians desperate for housing can be accommodated and exposed to higher levels of economic opportunity, and have a better chance of escaping high levels of intergenerational transmission of poverty and unemployment, experienced on the Cape Flats.

An additional option is to upgrade apartheid/colonial and RDP era matchbox houses into double storey terraced housing, where backyarders can move into the top level - keeping families together while not destroying much needed and limited green recreational spaces on the Cape Flats.

* Lester September, Forum of Cape Flats Civics Chairperson.

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

Cape Argus

Share this article: