Before community intervention, this neglected piece of City land was an illegal dump site and a haven for criminal activity. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – Despite an uproar over the auction of a parcel of land in Bonteheuwel, plans are still afoot for the land to go under the hammer today.

Residents are expected to protest outside the auction venue in Mouille Point.

They have also started a petition to save the land on which they created a peace garden. The petition has so far received almost 1 500 signatures.

“We refuse to sell the land to outside developers. Following the media outcry, the City said they would get back to us about our concerns but they never did,” said community activist and the founder of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, Soraya Salie.

“For years the land was a neglected eyesore, an illegal dumping site frequently used by the negative elements in our society as a place to pedal drugs.  

"We the community took it upon ourselves to clean the plot. We worked with environmental organisations and regenerated the soil. We converted the dump into a beautiful community garden, a place of safety,” she said.

Salie said that after they had spent about five months cleaning the site and turning it into the gem residents now deemed an asset, the City decided to auction the land.

“We are so saddened by this. We don’t easily see the story of a community working together to save the place we call home. We have worked tirelessly to make Bonteheuwel a place we are all proud to call home.”

The garden was inaugurated on June 17, as a Youth Day project, with a special programme including diverse interfaith leaders, the local ward councillor, organisations and neighbouring community members, she said.

The local church, he Church of the Resurrection, located next to the Camelia Street site, had also tried to purchase the land since 1994, to no avail, which Salie said angered residents.

Church warden Donovan Davids said they had reached out to the City to purchase the land more than once.

“We tried in 1994 and 2000, because it is a small plot next to the church and people were throwing rubble there, smoking drugs and doing all kinds of unsavoury things.

“We had big ideas of doing something positive for the community with that land. We want to build a centre to run programmes for the elderly and the youth as well as soup kitchens and so forth.

“We made contact with the City but received no feedback. We are worried about the future of this land because it has a big impact on the community and we have no idea who could purchase it and what their intentions will be,” Davids said.

The City said the auction would proceed as there had been a public participation process granted last year.

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said: “The property, Erf 127372 in Bonteheuwel, is zoned General Residential 4 and according to data the property has been moved from investment to surplus. 

"Authority to commence with the public participation process was granted on April 6, 2018. A public participation process was initiated and the intended sale of the property advertised. 

“The in-principle approval report was submitted to sub council 5 on September 19, 2018, where the item was supported.

“On January 31, 2019, Council granted an in-principle approval for the sale of the property. The property was included in the City’s auction list for disposal.”

Tyhalibongo added that there was no record of an approval being granted for the use of the property for park purposes.

“The City is obliged to sell its immovable property via a fair, transparent and on a competitive basis to afford all interested parties the opportunity to acquire the property. 

"Deviations from the competitive processes are only considered under exceptional circumstances.”

Cape Times