Reclaim the City takes over the Rondebosch Golf Course to protest against the City’s failure to redistribute public land for the development of affordable housing. Picture: Tracey Adams / African News Agency (ANA)
Reclaim the City takes over the Rondebosch Golf Course to protest against the City’s failure to redistribute public land for the development of affordable housing. Picture: Tracey Adams / African News Agency (ANA)

WATCH: Rondebosch golf course lease questioned amid call to use land for cheap houses

By Bulelwa Payi Time of article published Mar 1, 2020

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Cape Town – In the face of a growing housing crisis, the City of Cape Town looks set to extend a lease agreement for the Rondebosch Golf Course. 

A few weeks ago, the City invited interested parties to submit comments or objections to plans to renew the lease of 45.99 hectares of public land to the Southern Suburbs golf club.

The City said it had already received about 680 comments.

The use of the land, equivalent to 45 rugby fields, will come at a cost of R88.17 a month (or R1 058 a year).

The top membership package for golfers costs R15 750 per year (excluding affiliation and handicap), according to the club’s website.

Social justice organisations have voiced concerns that the continuation of the lease would be tantamount to the City subsidising the rich by renting out the prime state land at that amount for private use. 

They have proposed that the land could better be used to reverse the City’s apartheid spatial planning by developing a mixed-use, mixed-income housing project.

A researcher with activist organisation and law centre Ndifuna Ukwazi, Michael Clark, said the City should adopt a radical new approach to how it used land that it owned.

Clark also challenged the huge financial benefits of the lease with regard to maintenance and operational costs of the golf courses, as claimed by the City.

“With these leases, the City is not even reaping financial benefits. It’s actually externalising the cost of not providing housing to hundreds of thousands of people who have to live in informal settlements and spend money on travel costs to their workplaces,” he said.

A Reclaim the City activist explains what the fuss is all about at a protest at the Rondebosch golf course. Video: Tracey Adams / African News Agency (ANA)

Cities such as Hong Kong in China and Canberra in Australia that have public land-leasing programmes use the money to fund infrastructure. 

Cape Town has 24 golf courses and driving ranges, of which 10 are on City-owned land, and 34 bowling greens, 26 of which are on City land.

In addition, according to the Management of Certain of the City of Cape Town’s Immovable Property policy, the City also owns 87000 pieces of land - although not all of them would be ideal for housing.

On Human Rights Day last year, activists from Reclaim the City (RTC) occupied the Rondebosch Golf Club to highlight the City’s failure to redistribute the public land.

A spokesperson for the RTC Woodstock Chapter, Karen Hendricks, said: “The City keeps telling us of the housing waiting list. People don’t live on waiting lists, they live in houses. It is unreasonable and unfair for the City to keep driving us out.”

The Rondebosch Golf Club lease was first signed in January 1937 during the colonial era, characterised by segregation.

“If we keep renewing these leases without considering their impact, then we are just reproducing colonial and apartheid spatial planning. This is simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy that prioritises spatial justice,” Clark added. 

The law centre said at least 2 500 housing units could be built on two-thirds of the land, 1 433 of which could be affordable - a mix of social and subsidised units.

This would afford people who would otherwise not be able to live closer to economic opportunities an opportunity to do so.

“We can develop in a way that minimises environmental degradation, providing water retention ponds, porous paving and wetlands. So the flood line cannot just be a barrier,” Clark added.

The Ndifuna Ukwazi-proposed development would also incorporate a public promenade alongside the Black River, on the land that would not be developed, creating a “genuinely accessible public open space” that would connect the segregated neighbourhoods of Sybrand Park, Mowbray, Pinelands and Athlone.

The deadline for comments is March 9, and comments can be emailed to [email protected], or physically delivered to the City of Cape Town, Civic Centre.

Weekend Argus

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