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G@tvol warns of bigger shutdown as community organisations disapprove of City land auctions

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Some community-based organisations in Cape Town have objected to recent auctions of vacant land by the City. Pressure group G@tvol Capetonian is demanding that vacant land throughout the city be used for housing and reintegration, while community leaders, such as the founder of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, are simply unhappy with the public participation processes followed ahead of the auctions. G@tvol Capetonian has now also warned of another total shutdown, which the spokesperson, Fadiel Adams, says will be bigger than ever before.

“We are planning another shutdown but we are going to do it on a much bigger scale…we are going to get buy-in throughout the province and it’s not going to be for a day only. We are going to invite all civic associations and taxi associations. We are going to shut the city down and make it bleed because we are bleeding,” said Adams.

Adams argues that the City of Cape Town is failing in reintegrating communities post-Apartheid and accuses the City of “keeping white suburbs white, coloured ghettos brown and black townships black”.

He also says that while G@tvol Capetonian understands that the City cannot afford to build houses for everyone when and where people want them to, the City should at least “release” vacant land to avoid further overcrowding of the ghettos and townships in Cape Town. According to Adams, this will also assist in reducing the crime rates in the Western Cape.

“The issue is so deep that it’s unreal. If you look at areas like Delft, Bonteheuwel, Manenberg and Hanover Park, these areas are so overcrowded…

We understand that government doesn’t have the money to build houses for everyone and this is why we’re saying release the land – send our people home, empty the ghettos and bring the crime rate down.”

“We don’t [only] want the land in ‘our’ areas – we want the prime land where you threw us off. We are saying to the City, ‘You need to send our people home and let integration happen – integration is what we fought for: to live and work and play alongside all other races’. The City of Cape Town makes sure that a white suburb stays white, that a coloured ghetto stays brown and that a black township stays black,” said Adams.

Founder of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies and spokesperson for the petition against the auctioning of land in Bonteheuwel, Soraya Salie explained that she feels hurt by the manner in which the City has proceeded with the auctions and the lack of public participation in the process.

She despondently indicated that community members are disappointed in how political leaders “disrespect and dishonour the community”.

“We look up to these people who are supposed to be our leaders…” she said.

“People are giving up hope, knowing that fighting the City is a losing battle.”

City’s response

The City, however, has responded by saying that “an auction is a legitimate process that gives our ordinary citizens and public benefit organisations the right to bid for properties” and that “auctions are one of the methods adopted to give effect to strategic objectives; to leverage the City’s immovable property and optimally utilise City assets to stimulate social and economic benefits for Cape Town”.

“The property disposals by  public auction/tenders allow citizens access to residential opportunities, stimulate business, generate employment and provide much needed social care facilities.  All of which contribute to an integrated and sustainable urban environment.

The land identified for auction/tender is considered surplus to the requirements of the City’s municipal service provision. The underutilised properties confer no social or economic benefit should it remain undeveloped and all sectors of society should be able to access public land via this transparent disposal mechanism,” read a written official response by the City of Cape Town.

Bonteheuwel ward councillor, Angus McKenzie has also responded to allegations of a lack of public participation in the auctioning process of land in Bonteheuwel by indicating that there was, in fact, an open public participation process.

He says the City informed the Bonteheuwel community of the possible auctioning of land through various forms of communication.

“Throughout the process of a year and a half, not one single person lodged any formal or informal complaint or objection around having the land being auctioned off,” he said.

“The public participation included everything from library posters, council posters, newspapers and other media and we have records of all these. Once the ball has gone up that the land will be auctioned, now people come out of the woodwork and say ‘No, no, no this can’t happen – we’re unhappy about it’ but when the process was there to allow people to object, they never took up the process.”

McKenzie added that all community-based organisations registered on the City’s database – relevant to the land on auction – were informed of the possible auctioning through the City’s communication methods. According to McKenzie, this negates claims by different groups that they were unaware of the auctions’ public participation processes.

“We need to find a balance here because as a community we have to move forward and we have to invest within ourselves as well as expect some external investment so that we can move forward and achieve better things,” said McKenzie.

VOC


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