City’s breadbasket under threat

Plans to develop a large portion of eco-sensitive Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) might end up in the courts after both the developer and the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association appealed, for various reasons, for and against the development.

Nazeer Sonday, chairman of the association, says they objected to the seven days it was given to prepare an appeal and only 10 minutes to state its case before a City of Cape Town appeals committee.

On Tuesday June 13 a crowd gathered outside the Civic Centre before entering the General Appeals Committee meeting where they appealed the rezoning subdivision of properties in Schaapkraal, Philippi (Oaklands City). “We were told that we would be considered by the General Appeals Committee to present our appeal within 10 minutes. We only had seven days to prepare for the hearing and there was lots of paperwork to complete. We don’t see our voices were heard properly. We thought this meeting was badly set up and we protested and asked the City if we could hand over a statement listing the reasons for our appeal.”

He said the City officials told them they would read the statement and “give us feedback within 10 days”.

Susanna Coleman of Kenilworth also expressed shock about the meeting, saying the process violates civic society’s rights. “International guidelines state that in order to plan and implement meaningful public participation it should not just tick boxes and be routine,” she said.

“The PHA is complex and important to every Capetonian. It affects eight different provincial departments,” said Ms Coleman.

Earlier this year activists hailed the dismissal of an application to rezone prime agricultural land in the eco-sensitive (PHA) as a victory. On Friday February 24, Heritage Western Cape (HWC) dismissed a second appeal by developer U-Vest Property Group who applied to rezone 96 hectares prime agricultural land off Weltevreden Road and Jakes Gerwel Drive in the heart of the Cape Flats.

Mr Sonday says the fight began in 2008, when Oakland City Development Company Ltd (Rapicorp 122), owners of 472.36 hectares lodged an application to have the land-use designation changed from horticultural to urban. The plan is to develop a shopping centre, a privately run prison, residential and community facilities (Oakland City), which will form part of Ward 43 (Strandfontein and parts of Philippi, which includes Isiqalo informal settlement).

The other 280-hectare development, owned by MSP-Uvest, included housing and a private school.

Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) chairperson, Norman Jantjes, said they acknowledge that there is a housing problem in Mitchell’s Plain and the city. However, the land is not appropriate for housing but agriculture.

He said the PHA has been in existence for many years, making a valuable contribution to communities. “It is great that there is farmland so close to city life. This means that residents are able to purchase goods at a lower price and more importantly job employment. I think the City needs to consider the farming community, and find alternative land for housing,” he said.

Mr Jantjes said short-term victories should not be built at the expense of others.

Mr Sonday said the 3 000ha PHA is Cape Town’s breadbasket, providing 80 percent (200 000 tons) of the city’s vegetables, making it the highest producing vegetable area per hectare in the country. It is also a major recharge for the 635 square km Cape Flats Aquifer that irrigates these crops and also has the potential to provide 30 percent of the city’s potable water.

Frank Molteno of the Westlake-based Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute said they are following the PHA issue and in response have organised a series of Soul, Soil and Society events. A panel of experts will introduce local examples where development has come at the expense of the environment: in Kenilworth Racecourse, Philippi Horticultural Area, Princess Vlei and Paardevlei Dam. The first event takes place on Wednesday July 5, from 6pm until 8pm, at Touch of Madness Restaurant, 12 Nuttall Road, Observatory. For more information, call Portia on 021 701 8145 or email portia@safcei.org.za

Additional reporting by Kaylynn Palm