The organisers of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) Food & Farming Campaign appear to be making progress after Heritage Western Cape denied the rezoning application for the U-Vest development. The PHA recently launched a campaign opposing the development of land, which impacts on the Cape Flats Aquifer – a vital source of water for farmers in the area. Nazeer Sonday, convenor of the PHA campaign said the denial of the rezoning application is quite significant.
Heritage Western Cape said that the area of Philippi is important to Cape Town in terms of food and water, and the general social, cultural and heritage value of the city.
The Heritage Council, Sonday asserts, is a significant player. The council currently has a separate process running, in which a Heritage Overlay Zone is being developed.
The PHA are now awaiting a meeting with Heritage Western Cape to understand the legal ramifications and weight of their decision.
“We hope the city will now back off on this particular development and not support developers to pave over the PHA,” said Sonday.
Philippi has been producing the City of Cape Town’s vegetables since 1885, and “is the area with the country’s oldest agricultural association.” As an area of socio-economic importance, Philippi employs more than 4000 workers.
“The area for us Muslims [allows us] to do Qurbani and Akeeqa (Islamic sacrificial rituals),” Sonday said.
In 2009, the first development for 20 000 houses was announced, the City council subsequently refused authorization. The Save Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) campaign began in 2010 when the first significant development was announced.
In 2013, a second application was made, which proposed the construction of 6000 houses and a private school. In response, the council commissioned a food systems study in order to ascertain the implications of developing the farmland. Before the study could proceed, Mayor Helen Zille announced that an urgent need for housing existed, and subsequently supported the development.
Sonday noted that “this was quite bizarre because the reason for not approving it straight away was to understand the value of the area in terms of food and water for the city.”
He further asserted that there is currently 11 000 hectares of land in the city, which can be used for housing.
“The City itself is calling for the protection of the area,” Sonday explained.
PHA farmers – both commercial and emerging – produce over 48 vegetable types which make up over 50% of fresh vegetables consumed in Cape Town. All these studies found that the PHA is essential for the city’s food security.
It was found some 80% of the city’s citizens don’t have enough food to eat because of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Over 20% of fresh produce from the PHA is sold by hawkers and spaza shops in the poor areas of Cape Town. The rest is sold via the distribution networks of the major retailers like Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Woolworths and Fruit n Veg City.
The PHP campaign further stipulates that in a climate of rising fuel and food costs the PHA is ideally located close to the city and is thus an important insurance policy against increased food prices.
PHA is an area that is home to an abundant water supply from the underground Cape Flats Aquifer, which supplies year-long water – unlike anywhere else in the Western Cape. It is estimated that this aquifer can supply the City with 2 thirds of its potable water in the future.
“All the opposition parties were in opposition [to the development], but the mayor approved it,” explained Sonday.
In 2013, the MEC as the competent authority, overturned the City’s decision and refused authorization of the plan.
Despite the MEC’s refusal, in October 2015, Sonday received a call from an environmental practitioner who stated that he was conducting the environmental impact assessment for the construction of a shopping centre in the area of Philippi.
“The city has used other mechanisms to apply for the development,” Sonday expressed.
Sonday asserts that the application changed from ‘urban development’, which would result in the extension of the ‘urban edge’.
Sonday, however, is not aware of an EIA made by the city for the development. The EIA is a process that is required when agricultural land is put under production for urban land.
“We are committed as a community against this,” Sonday concluded.
VOC (Thakira Desai)