Letters to the editor: July 17 to 23 2015

Sea Front For All, a body of concerned citizens, took on the Cape Town city council and provincial government to prevent the commercial development of the Sea Point coastline. (David Harrison, M&G)

Sea Front For All, a body of concerned citizens, took on the Cape Town city council and provincial government to prevent the commercial development of the Sea Point coastline. (David Harrison, M&G)

Save our coastal space

Thank you for highlighting the proposed development of the Clifton reserve (De Lille and the contentious Clifton Scenic Reserve megaproject).

It is worth a reminder that Sea Front For All, a body of concerned citizens, has spent more than 10 years in conflict with the Cape Town city council and the province to prevent the commercial development of the beachfront in Sea Point.

In what is commonly known as the Pavilion, the land adjoining the swimming pool was up for development; a shopping centre and car park were to be built on this land. It was stopped in a hard-won case that went through the courts right up to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and it cost more than R1-million in private money to protect an iconic public space.

The irony is that, in the end, it was the present mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, who declared it a public open space that would remain in its pristine state for posterity. I thought “posterity” was a very big word at the time – particularly because De Lille hadn’t given it much attention.
But she changed her mind and we rejoiced, while remaining mindful of the battle to get to that point.

Now, just down the road, on the same beautiful, iconic coast, there is a similar bid to develop land adjoining the Clifton beaches. Why is this not worthy of the same consideration as Sea Point? Is this not part of the iconic beach that should be kept in its natural state for posterity?

There is something so familiar about the arguments presented in favour of the development and the never-ending chorus about generating revenue for the city. Whose city? Does that money get used to regenerate the likes of Blikkiesdorp or improve sanitation elsewhere?

Why is the city so obsessed with pulling down our natural heritage? What sort of Cape Town are they developing, with one unattractive high-rise building after another? What is the obsession that city councillors have with shops – and why more car parks, when the city has just spent millions on MyCiTi buses? We should be encouraging people to leave their cars at home and travel by bus. Buses do stop at Clifton.

  Thanks to amaBhungane for sifting out these details. It is now up to the people who use the coastal resorts of Cape Town to present serious opposition to this proposed attempt to disfigure our heritage and enrich yet another group of developers. – Lorna Levy, Cape Town

Life has improved under the ANC

  In response to Chopo Teleki’s letter, The ANC has no plan and neglects the people, everywhere there are voices striving to drive back or play down the gains made by the liberation movement, with the ANC as its centre and leader. I dare assert that South Africans are better off under the ANC-led government than they ever have been.

Looking at the infrastructure we now have, from clinics at Ramokonopi (Katlehong) and Motsamai (Katlehong) to Bertha Gxowa (Germiston), I am forever grateful for our government’s infrastructure programme. Now our parents don’t have to camp in one single clinic at Ramokonopi. These new clinics have relieved the pressure on the main hospital in Natalspruit.

The ANC-led government has created job opportunities in these projects. The new Natalspruit hospital alone cost R1.7-billion, creating 4 950 new jobs during construction.

As South Africans and engaged citizens we should be involved at all levels of governance, from community structures to the highest levels of government.

Some of the nurses and staff in these hospitals are our neighbours in the townships. We should be able to engage with them and share with them our frustrations at the lack of service in these government institutions. We should invite them to attend our community forums: this should change their attitude towards their jobs and give them the opportunity to tell us about the difficulties they face as public servants.

We need to conscientise our people so they can care for each other, and respect their jobs and facilities. The old Natalspruit hospital in Katlehong was closed down because of structural problems brought about by the dolomite problem we have in Ekurhuleni.

I have a parent who collects medication from a government clinic on a monthly basis. Where would our parents be without access to these facilities? Yes, there are challenges, including demoralised staff, but these facilities have been provided by the government for us to use. The medication my parent requires would definitely strangle my finances if I had to pay for them out of my own pocket.

The Freedom Charter states clearly that South Africa belongs to those who live in it. These pronouncements were made while we were foreigners in the country of our birth, made so by those who qualified only themselves as sole heirs of this beautiful land. Now we are all citizens.

  The ANC, together with the other members of the tripartite alliance, is the only movement with solid social programmes that will help to build and transform South Africa, despite the ruling party being chastised by the chaotic and consumeristic elements in opposition structures. – Lesetja Diphoko, Germiston

Nothing shady about Clifton plan

  “There is no evidence that there was anything improper,” writes Craig McKune in De Lille and the contentious Clifton Scenic Reserve megaproject.

Why let the facts get in the way of a good story? The lack of evidence wasn’t going to stand in the way of the story McKune wanted to write. The story went something like this: Patricia de Lille knows a rich person in Clifton who makes money doing stuff; Cape Town is engaged in the process of releasing assets it owns in Clifton; she and her friend must somehow be collaborating on this deal. And if she makes a deal about this, why not other deals – why not the Formula One (F1)?

In this logic, there just has to be something unsavoury about a friendship between a politician and a businessperson. The lack of evidence is a minor detail. So, after hedging his bets at the beginning of his piece, McKune writes an extensive story on the foundations of no evidence.

Well, you need a few ingredients to create the kind of inferences he’s going for. You need a lot of suggestive phrases and suggestions about answers to questions by using words such as “evasive”, “unhelpful” and “puzzling”. And don’t forget to draw connections to unrelated issues such as a development in Clifton, an F1 race and charitable donations.

As McKune knows, the facts do not support the story he wanted to write. I have been responding to questions from him for almost a month. I answered openly and honestly. I told him that I was friends with Mark Willcox. Yes, I visit my friends in their homes.

I also told him that any business item that concerns the council and the City of Cape Town, including the Clifton item, would have to go through prescribed, open, transparent processes. I told him that I had discussed the F1 race with many people – the matter is in the public domain. Yes, I talk about topical items that have appeared in the media with my friends.

I also told him that the Clifton project had been through council processes, though some in the opposition disagreed with it and an unnamed official may not have agreed with our decision. Yes, sometimes the opposition opposes and sometimes not all the officials are in agreement on a particular approach.

It is true that we have adopted an in-principle agreement to release the Clifton land for development. This would be done in terms of Municipal Asset Transfer Regulations and would follow an open tender process once the tender goes out. Our bid adjudication committee meeting is open to the public, so I invite McKune to attend it and observe proceedings when the tender is released and we get bids.

It is extremely valuable and would be a great source of revenue for the city. The council’s strategic plan, the Integrated Development Plan, says that we will be leveraging our assets for economic development. The council owns a lot of land, facilities and other types of assets. Not all of these are used optimally and many are legacies of previous strategies and plans that are now defunct.

The reason is the majority of these assets come from decisions made by predecessors to the “unicity” that was formed in 2000. Before the unicity, there were seven amalgamated councils formed after 1994 during the process of local government reform and consolidation in the democratic era. Before 1994, there were 27 in today’s metropolitan region. Each of these 27 councils had strategic imperatives and asset strategies. This means a great deal of ownership in service of objectives that have long since fallen away.

In essence, the City of Cape Town as it currently exists holds a large portfolio of assets that no longer serve the modern organisation or the modern city’s objectives.

What does serve our objectives is the need to raise revenue in new and innovative ways. It is not uncommon for other government authorities around the world to dispose of assets that they no longer have use for, in order to raise funds, but it is not very typical in South Africa. It has taken us a long time to get to grips with our total portfolio and the total range of what we own is vast. In that range are valuable assets such as the Clifton property.

I have tried in numerous ways to start a debate on the funding model for local government. We cannot keep pushing costs on to consumers – electricity tariffs in their current form are unsustainable, and metro governments receive a fraction of the tax they generate from national government in favour of rural municipalities and completely at variance with the demands of urbanisation, demands that are especially pressing given the rate at which Cape Town is growing.

The growing City of Cape Town needs money. We have valuable property that we don’t use. We need to sell it to generate income that we will use to execute our service delivery mandate.

Not everyone will agree with this decision. It is not the usual way of South African governments. If we had to wait for absolute unanimity of opinion, we would never do anything. In the end, some authority must make a decision.

This council said that we would pursue this strategy in our strategic planning document, which we engaged the public on. I have communicated certain strategic assets that are front and centre for us publicly on numerous occasions.

The city is open and transparent and all that we do is in full view of the public. The more successful we are in driving a strategic mandate, the more of a target we become. We can take the criticism, but next time, let’s engage on facts and try to keep the level of debate at a certain level. – Patricia de Lille, mayor of Cape Town

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