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Government fight over site for Jewish school




Sisulu’s spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya says the minister does not agree with the decision, especially since national government is in the process of redefining restructuring zones. “We believe that land should be used for the benefit of the poor; there are many people who work in the City of Cape Town, who have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning and drive and catch busses and trains. We are going to engage with provincial government. That decision must be changed,” he said.

However, provincial government maintains the property is not big enough for a sub-economic housing project and that it has earmarked other accessible land for this purpose. It is digging in its heels, saying it will not budge on its long-awaited decision on this controversial piece of land. It maintains that both national and local government have no claim to this property and it is therefore not their decision.

“This is a decision by the Western Cape government on how best to use its assets. The land does not belong to the Human Settlements nationally… this decision has nothing to do with them,” says Provincial Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela.

There has been much debate over this prime property and whether it should be sold to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School (PJJDS) – presently situated in Camps Bay – or used for social housing.

Story continues after image…Tafelberg site

The provincial government, which sold the site for R135 million to the school, said that its decision was based on various factors, including the fact that the site did not fall within a restructuring zone, so it would not qualify for a national social subsidy. It was sold to the PJJDS after the Tafelberg Remedial School relocated to Bothasig in 2010.

The social activist organisation, Reclaim the City (Reclaim), supported by the NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi, was awarded a court order suspending the sale, causing a long-running campaign to build affordable housing on the site – which has been supported by the Cape Town City Council (the City) and several other social activist groups.

Last week, however, the Western Cape brought the matter to a close and sold the site to the Jewish school. This led to a chorus of criticism and action from all sides, including the City, Sisulu and various individuals and activist groups, who have been appealing for affordable and conveniently located housing in the City.

In order to make their protest felt, activists supporting Reclaim, this week “took up residence” in the abandoned Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses Home near the Waterfront. They say they are not moving from these properties – also earmarked by the provincial government for sale – until their demands are met. Their most important demand is the development of affordable housing on the Tafelberg site.

In its statement on the sale of the Tafelberg property on Wednesday, the provincial Cabinet said affordable housing would be included as a condition of sale for Helen Bowden. The statement also suggested that affordable housing would be part of the sale of Woodstock Hospital.

The occupying activists, however, have described these commitments as “vague”. They do not guarantee sales, says Daniel Linde, and they “have no time commitments attached to them”.

Linde’s day job is working for the Equal Education Law Centre. He has been integral to the campaign for social housing around the site. While Jewish Sea Point is split on the issue, Linde was involved in spearheading a petition that was signed by over 250 Jewish residents – in favour of 270-plus housing units to be built.

In the meantime, the PJJDS – which brands itself as a “multi-sensory school relying heavily on a variety of innovative, creative educational techniques and systems, to inspire learning and thinking in each individual child” –  is already planning its new school.

The Western Cape Province has reaffirmed its commitment to establish affordable housing units closer to the City, but is adamant that the Tafelberg site is not the best suitable for this purpose and it bemoans the fact that it has become a political expedient point-scoring issue.

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