Philippi Horticultural Area  Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)
Philippi Horticultural Area Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

Hiring big guns in Philippi farmland battle is unfair to community

By Susanna Coleman Time of article published Feb 3, 2019

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The only thing standing between the complete destruction of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) and a future with food security assured, is the PHA Campaign’s high court case.

We have to boycott international conferences to draw attention to this; while the city and provincial government officials and consultants appear inside, lying outright to delegates.

They use the “sub judice” rule to sidestep our attempts to get answers: “this is in court, we can’t comment”. And yet their whole spiel inside the conference is about our Philippi farmlands - for which they have signed off its destruction.

All rights have been granted to the developers who seek to replace the farmlands with 40000 gated houses, private prisons, private schools and shopping centres.

Could the governors, therefore, please comment on which farmlands, exactly, you are going to be using for the agro-ecology you so fervently support? Because, actually, unless we win our case - there is no farmland left!

Via a series of appalling decisions from 2012 - led by MEC Bredell’s 2011 urban edge shift into the PHA which the full city council actually turned down - local government has granted full development rights to the development of Oaklands City.

To the delight of several other developers, the city - under mayor Patricia De Lille - did not hesitate to okay the proposals; all specifically turned down by national government and the city counsel in 2009.

Since then, three other developers and Consol glass have pursued further rezones of this unique and irreplaceable agriculture-zoned land. There is now less than 1900ha left - well below the threshold required for a thriving peri-urban farmland; halving the 55000 jobs potential, and destroying the Cape Flats Aquifer by obliterating its last recharge zone. 

Instead of acknowledging this folly - given the lessons dished out by a disastrous drought experience - they are doubling down on these decisions, and opposing the campaign case alongside developers in court.

Bredell, and mayor Dan Plato: We have to ask - why are you going the extra mile to support developers against us, when plenty of precedents allow you to (more fairly) abide by the judge’s decision? As officials, do you have the right to use millions of our tax money to fight to defend your decisions, when the provincial cabinet apparently decided the opposite?

Plato and Bredell, we want you off our backs. How on Earth is it that a community-based organisation has to not just fight for our Bill of Rights against our governors, but have our own tax dollars spent opposing us?

How can it be that our one (only paid on contingency, if we win) advocate must now spend a week in court up against two or three senior counsel per developer - advocates hired by the very governors who took an oath to uphold our Constitution? Eight to 12 of their advocates, to one of us.

How does that square up with the constitutional undertaking in Section 34, which says: “Everyone has the right to have any dispute that can be resolved by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court or, where appropriate, another independent and impartial tribunal or forum.”

In the Bo-Kaap and Maiden’s Cove cases, the city has opted to abide. Is that because they have wealthy voters in their numbers, and a national minister supporting them?

Your habit of “law-faring” Cape Town’s citizens into submission cost us R39 million in the last year, is well known, and is a bullying and shameless way to rule. 

Moreover, there is a limit to how “developer-friendly” a regime can be: first when you have to violate your own citizens’ rights, and secondly, when you have to make illegal decisions to accommodate their proposals.

Withdraw your opposition to the PHA Campaign in court, and take the consequences: let us present our case that your decision-making is irrational, illegal and not in the interests of the citizens of Cape Town.

Let the developers defend their case based on merit, not with the might of the city and province standing right beside them.

A fair hearing is our constitutional right. Rather align your administrative actions with your oath of office: stop abusing our rates and taxes to defend your poor decision-making - and let the judge decide.

* Coleman is a volunteer in the Philippi Horticultural Area PHA Campaign.

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


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