Cape Town – It would mark a first for Cape Town prime property to have social housing which could accommodate the many domestic workers who have to travel to and from Sea Point on a daily basis after the sale of the land was stopped three years ago.
This is the crux of an open letter written to Premier Alan Winde by leaders of Reclaim the City, where domestic workers who work on prime property are calling for the development of Tafelberg to include affordable housing to begin without further delay.
It has been a controversial battle since 2015/16 after the public submissions on the provincial government's proposed sale of the Tafelberg site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million, which led to a protest by Reclaim the City.
A public participation had been agreed upon by the provincial government over whether the land should be sold.
Reclaim the City gave hundreds of written submissions and thousands of petition signatures objecting to the sale.
Their plight was to have a space where workers such as domestic workers could live in affordable housing.
Now years later, Reclaim the City leaders have picked up their plight in a letter written to Winde by leaders Sheila Madikane and Megan Indiphile Bhobhotyan.
In the letter, the activists said this year marked three years since domestic workers of Sea Point, Reclaim the City social activists and Sea Point residents had stopped the sale of Tafelberg.
“When the sale of Tafelberg was stopped, the victory was met with great joy and spirit. For the first time in the history of Cape Town, we were on the path of seeing the first affordable housing development being built in the inner City of Cape Town.
“But much like the promises made to people at the dawn of democracy, this promise has remained unrealised. Today, the site still stands empty with no sign of movement towards development.
“The call for the site was one made out of sheer desperation and need.
“For years, we domestic workers of Sea Point have spent as much as a third of our income on transport to and from work. Those of us who were lucky enough to have domestic quarters on site of employment were living in hostile environments.
“No overnight visitors, our children and families not allowed, curfews and time limits on visitors.
“Premier, we need to say that we still hold in our hearts the promise that you made before you took office of addressing the painful history through investing in social housing and infrastructure close to economic opportunities.
“Releasing the Tafelberg site for social housing represents a crucial step towards achieving these goals.
“The release of the Tafelberg site needs to be prioritised to expedite the construction of affordable housing. Building social housing at the Tafelberg site will serve as a symbol of hope and progress.”
They asked Winde why there had been a delay.
Regan Thaw, spokesperson for Winde, said his office could not comment because it was a matter for Infrastructure.
“While I am aware of our general stance on Tafelberg, our Infrastructure colleagues have more information on the matter, which will be more beneficial,” he said.
The Western Cape High Court set aside the sale of the land and ordered the City to address its planning three years ago.
An appeal was sought in the Cape High Court, and later the Supreme Court of Appeal was approached which had reached a reserved judgment earlier this year.
In a report by sister newspaper the Cape Times earlier this year, it stated that, in a written provincial legislature reply to a question by ANC leader Cameron Dugmore, Winde said R5 431 341.25 was used for legal fees in the battle of the Tafelberg development.
Ntobeko Mbingeleli, spokesperson for Infrastructure Minister Tertuis Simmers, said they encouraged social housing and the Western Cape government was very keen to proceed with the development of the site with a portion dedicated to social housing.
“It is very important to the provincial government to create social housing opportunities in and around the CBD.
“The matter is currently before the Supreme Court of Appeal and we are awaiting the outcome on that matter.”