Ridiculous! Prime land leased at R85 per month to privileged Capetonians
NGOs red-flag the 'dysfunctional urban form' that favours a white minority in the inner city
For only R1,016 a year an exclusive sports club within walking distance of Cape Town’s CBD has sole access to land larger than four rugby fields.
This prime piece of real estate in Green Point – a bowling club with a green of 40,000m² – is leased from the City of Cape Town. A small part of it is used infrequently, while most of the space is not used at all.
The land, in a former whites-only area, was one of many sites that could be better used to serve all the people of Cape Town, said researcher Nick Budlender from the organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi. The organisation does legal work and research for the social movement Reclaim the City.
“The Green Point bowling green is just one of the many parcels of public land that is leased out by the City of Cape Town for uses that are exclusive, inefficient and unjust,” said Budlender.
“These include empty fields, and underutilised bowling greens, golf courses and parking lots in almost every former whites-only area.
“At a time when the nation is frustrated about the lack of land reform” this highlighted a “failure to manage public land in the best interests of all residents in the city”.
Land that could sit at the “heart of transformation” was “either sold or leased well below market value for use by a minority of mostly wealthy residents”.
Budlender said affordable housing near the CBD should be a priority, but right now only a few thousand people live there.
The bowling green, for which the Glen Green Point Sports Centre pays about R85 a month, could “house hundreds of families close to good schools, the best parks, transport and work opportunities”.
Luthando Tyhalibongo, media manager for the City of Cape Town, confirmed the lease was “still valid” and the “annual tariff including VAT is R1,016”.
This was set “in accordance with the city’s approved tariff schedule that is applicable to all sporting, non-profit organisations and non-government organisations”.
The amount was charged in accordance with a city policy that deals with the management of certain parcels of immovable property, said Tyhalibongo.
When asked about the land being used by a small group of privileged residents infrequently, he said: “The property is zoned for recreation and that is what it is being used for, under certain conditions stipulated in an agreement that governs usage and fees.”
The site was one of many highlighted during a walkabout organised by the African Centre for Cities as part of the Mistra Urban Futures conference – with the theme “realising just cities”.
Another contested site is Rocklands Villas, a dilapidated and empty housing complex which is owned by, and sits behind, the SABC in Green Point. For decades it has been left to go to rack and ruin.
It was built as housing for “black and coloured staff members” of the SABC, but for the past few decades “the units have remained vacant, rendering them unfit for habitation”, according to the African Centre for Cities.
This is another example of state-owned land that is not being pushed to realise “a more equitable and just city in Sea Point”, the centre said.
Derelict and sitting in limbo, the villas were “a small but important” example of a lost opportunity for affordable housing, said Budlender.
SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu confirmed that Rocklands Villas was strategically purchased “long ago to provide the SABC with additional capacity”.
She acknowledged it was “an old building” which “in its current state is unsuitable for human occupation”, and said nobody had lived there for more than 20 years.
However, the broadcaster’s “liquidity challenges” had made “ongoing maintenance impossible”, while heritage regulations meant the façade could not be renovated.
“The SABC remains committed to the upkeep of all buildings in its portfolio of properties, including Rocklands Villas,” said Momodu, but added that the focus was only on “emergency maintenance”.
A comprehensive audit of the SABC’s property portfolio began last month and “the way forward on this property will also be assessed in due course and the outcome presented to the relevant authorities”.
Budlender said: “A wealthy, predominantly white minority lives in low-density suburbs that surround the inner city and enjoys great access to services and opportunities, while the majority of people are forced to live in poorly serviced areas far away from jobs, schools, hospitals and other amenities.”
The “inverse densification” highlighted Cape Town’s “dysfunctional urban form”. Mncedisi Twala, an anti-eviction campaigner, described the inner city as “still being exclusive”. He said: “If you have nice clothes and a car and you come from the suburbs, you are welcomed and nobody disturbs you. If not, you will be treated as somebody who is about to commit a crime.”