Judgement has been reserved in a case heard by the Western Cape High Court, brought by the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) Food and Farming Campaign against the City of Cape Town. The Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign is attempting to prevent the City from rezoning and developing parts of the PHA, saying that South Africa already has limited agricultural land and that environmental destruction of the PHA would be catastrophic.
Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign volunteer and treasurer, Susanna Coleman says that the argument the City makes regarding the absence of farming activity on some portions of land in the area being a sound reason for the land to be rezoned for mixed-use development is “irrelevant” and that the resources in the area are irreplaceable.
“The argument that it’s not farmland is absolutely irrelevant,” said Coleman referring to the portions of land that the City of Cape Town wants to rezone.
“The Constitutional Court ruling of 2008 says that it doesn’t matter whether that particular piece is being farmed or not – it’s agriculture zoned and it’s zoned like that for a reason. It has a particular climate and a particular water supply which is unique in certain areas. That’s why you get protection that’s over 50 years old – because it doesn’t change.”
According to reports from Cape Town Etc, the City of Cape Town is defending its position on the matter by arguing that housing, employment and schooling opportunities will be created through the introduction of commercial, retail, office and industrial development in the area.
Coleman, however, argues that while all those opportunities are important, a source of food for the country – and area – is vital.
She also highlighted the lack of cooperative governance in the City’s processes and that the PHA is a key area for South Africa’s agricultural sector.
“The spatial planning of the City always allocates certain areas for certain roles. There are places where people live and then industrial areas… it’s really important that four million people have a source of food – especially nowadays. We know that local food is absolutely imperative.
One of our prayers in our court case was to ask for a declaration that the area be protected and that the sub-division of land in that area should be as per the Constitutional Court ruling in 2008. Permission, if you want to change it, should be granted from national government. All along the course of events, national government stated that they need to keep this land for food security,” said Coleman.
Warning of a growing encroachment on agricultural land in Philippi, she added “there comes a point at which an area is too small to be viable as a farming area. Once you start giving permissions for development… you have a cascade of development applications, and we’re now at number six. So far, over a period of 10 years we’ve lost a third of the PHA…in another two years another third will be gone and then the rest will be gone.”
“You’ll just end up with no agricultural land whatsoever. The scary thing is that in this country, only 13% of land can be used to grow food and the PHA land is particularly drought proof because of the aquifer underneath it. You can’t replace that. Once you’ve paved that over…where are you going to find land to grow food on?”
Despite the reserved judgement, the Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign is relieved to have had their days in court.
“The elements we touched on [in the case] relate to cooperative governance and to what extent local government has to take into account the opinion of national government – who are trying to preserve the agricultural land to deliver food security. We also touched on the fairness of the processes that were involved, where some of the decisions were made behind closed doors…”
“We put to the judge that there’s not enough information in terms of the impact that taking land out of the city would have on the pending climate change shocks that are to come.”