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Activists lay complaint over ‘sophisticated racism’ in Sea Point

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Supporters of affordable housing in Cape Town on Thursday lodged a “racism” complaint with Mayor Patricia de Lille over comments a ratepayers group official made about a contentious site in Sea Point.

The complaint centred on what David Polovin, deputy chair of the Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay Ratepayers & Residents Association, said about the Tafelberg site.

Affordable housing on the site was neither practicable, nor in the interests of the Sea Point residents and workers, he told a newspaper at the weekend.

The sale of the site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School was put on hold after workers and the Reclaim the City campaign went to court to question the use of the land.

A settlement, made an order of court, re-opened public comment on the sale.

‘Sophisticated racism’

In a letter handed over at the civic centre on Thursday, supporters Emma Daitz, Thandeka Sisusa and Zackie Achmat said Polovin’s comments were “sophisticated, indirect racism”.

It was their belief that he excluded the views of black and working class Sea Point residents. Polovin’s comments exemplified “a racist and anti-poor logic”, they said.

De Lille was urged to take the matter seriously.

Polovin confirmed he was correctly quoted, but said some things were left out.

“Our understanding is that affordable housing is an issue. Everyone knows it is an issue and extremely limited, and the city and province’s budgets are under tremendous strain,” he told News24 on Thursday.

He said people all over the city needed affordable housing. Sea Point was very densely built.

The main issue was to decide whether the proposal made sense from a town planning and budgetary view, he argued. Money had to be used to get “maximum value”.

‘Bang for your buck’

He listed the 22-hectare site of the old Conradie hospital in Pinelands as an example, which was earmarked for a mixed-income housing development.

Polovin said the site allowed more “bang for your buck” by offering enough space for housing, schooling, and recreational facilities.

“It’s right next to the train station so commuting is helluva easy.”

“That assumes the infrastructure works,” he conceded.

The campaign told De Lille affordable housing development was very much in the interests of some workers and residents.

It said workers often faced lengthy, costly and dangerous commutes, or abuse from Sea Point landlords.

‘Wealthy white developers’

It called the residents and ratepayers association a “lobby group of mainly extremely wealthy white property developers”.

Polovin said the association was freely elected as a result of an annual public meeting and had “quite a wide constituency of people”.

People in the area were relatively wealthy, he said, but some had to move because they struggled to pay their rents and rates.

He questioned the timing of the complaint ahead of elections.

De Lille’s spokesperson Zara Nicholson confirmed that the “Inclusive City desk” received the complaint.

“We will study the complaint and then take the necessary action.”

[Source: News24]
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