Land occupiers take aim at posh golf course
The lush 45 hectares could hold nearly 2,700 homes, one reason activists feel an occupation is par for the course
One of this week’s more interesting Twitter “debates” followed Tuesday’s release of a document highlighting “Cape Town’s failure to redistribute land”.
Headlining with the case of Rondebosch Golf Club and its R1,000 annual rental bill from the City of Cape Town, land rights NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi set out to highlight the extent of council-owned land in the city “which should be prioritised for redistribution but instead is used in an inefficient, exclusive and unsustainable manner”.
Predictable hysterics aside, the Twitterati responded with shock to the revelations by Ndifuna Ukwazi writer Nick Budlender and his colleagues, who highlighted 24 parcels of land.
Their document sparked an “occupation” of Rondebosch Golf Club on Thursday by about 200 members of Ndifuna Ukwazi sister organisation Reclaim the City. Spokesperson Zacharia Mashele said the demonstrators explained their claim on the land to golfers and staked out plots for symbolic sod-turning ceremonies. In their 36-page report, Budlender and his colleagues went as far as sketching out development plans for some of the parcels of land they identified as underutilised. These included eight golf courses and 13 bowling clubs.
Rondebosch Golf Club’s 45 hectares, for example, could provide nearly 2,700 homes, well over half of them in the “social” and “gap” categories aimed at people forced to the margins of Cape Town by affordability.
Ten-storey blocks on Green Point bowling green – where the annual rent is also R1,000 – could provide more than 2,000 homes; and Fish Hoek bowling green (R1,000 rental) could accommodate 171 social housing units in three-storey walkups.
Introducing their document, Budlender and fellow authors Julian Sendin and Jared Rossouw say the constitution, the law and Cape Town’s own policies made equitable land redistribution imperative.
“It is clear that in order to meet these obligations and transform our cities and our society, dense affordable housing must be built on well-located public land close to infrastructure, services and opportunities,” they say.
“Despite this, most of the remaining well-located public land owned by the city, province and the national government in Cape Town continues to be captured by a wealthy minority, lies empty, or is underused given its potential.”
Don Ball, the general manager of 109-year-old Rondebosch Golf Club – where the 500 members each pay about R15,750 a year – said the executive committee was sympathetic to the need for safer, more affordable housing, just not on its fairways.
“It believes there are many spaces – not least of all massive tracts of state-owned land – which would arguably be more appropriate and far less of a loss to Cape Town and its people.
“The end of Rondebosch Golf Club would mean the unnecessary loss of one of Cape Town’s most popular leisure destinations and another blot on Cape Town’s environmental landscape.”
Ball said more than half the 54,000 rounds of golf played at Rondebosch annually were by visitors, mainly domestic and international tourists.
“Thus the club operates, in many respects, as a public club,” he said, adding its membership was the most demographically representative in Cape Town.
The Ndifuna Ukwazi document called for a new approach from the City of Cape Town, which it said must: set up a department to manage its land with the capacity for “package and tender land parcels for affordable housing”;
immediately review its biggest and best-located parcels of leased land, rezone them, end leases and make them available for housing; and
sell land at nominal fees for social housing, cross-subsidised by market-rate homes, offices and shops. Budlender and colleagues said: “The onus should be on the City of Cape Town to defend why the status quo should continue and land should not be redistributed.
“Where the City of Cape Town makes poor land-use choices, other spheres of government should be prepared to expropriate the land and develop it for affordable housing.”
Times Select asked the City of Cape Town for its response to the Ndifuna Ukwazi document and posed specific questions about reports that it was scrapping long-term leases and attempting to facilitate mergers between golf clubs.
It replied: “The City of Cape Town notes the report.”