Cape Town - Activists campaigning to protect the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) from developers have accused the provincial government of double standards.
They demand the 2011 decision to grant a private company – Rapicorp – the right to develop land on the farming area’s edge, be reversed.
Two weeks ago, farmers in Philippi welcomed a decision by Planning MEC Anton Bredell to reject a similar application for housing development by a company called MSP.
The area is known as “Cape Town’s bread basket” and, according to farmers, produces more than 50 percent of the vegetables consumed in Cape Town. In recent years the area has been threatened by speculators who have applied for the urban edge to be moved so housing units can be built.
Such proposals have received political support from provincial and city leaders due to the city’s housing backlog. Farmers, however, argue that they need the land for expansion due to increased demand for their crops.
Bredell’s decision to reject MSP’s bid was scrutinised by Abubakr Salie, lawyer for the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association (Scea).
Salie says the same reasons Bredell cited in denying MSP should have prevented him from granting Rapicorp permission to infringe on the horticultural land with a proposed housing development. Salie cited Bredell’s concern over agricultural productivity and the integrity of the underground aquifer (given as reasons for denying MSP’s application).
“Why has MSP been rejected and Rapicorp allowed? Scea wants him to overturn the decision and more emphasis to be placed on illegal dumping and an infrastructure in the PHA.”
Salie added that the Rapicorp development infringed on farmers and Philippi resident’s constitutional rights to “environmental health, well-being… food security and water”.
Bredell defended his decision to allow the Rapicorp development.
He explained that any decision he took in public planning for provincial government would only leave “50 percent” of the people concerned happy.
“We have to look at the competing needs in our city. There is the need for housing, because the urban population has grown at an incredible rate since the 1990s. There is the need for protecting the food security that the horticultural area helps ensure,” he said.
“I stick to the Rapicorp decision and the MSP decision. The reasoning for these decisions is legally sound and can be viewed and studied by anyone.”