The fight for spatial justice in the Tafelberg land dispute continues this week from Monday until Thursday in the Cape Town High Court. The case, taken up by social movement Reclaim the City and NPO Ndifuna Ukwazi among others, symbolises an ideological battle between spatial justice and redress in Cape Town against the continuation of market-price sales coupled with an apparent disregard for socio-economic redress and inclusion.
The applicants in the case, which according to director and lawyer at Ndifuna Ukwazi Mandisa Shandu, include “a number of individual housing activists together with Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi” are fighting the Western Cape Provincial Government’s decision to sell the centrally located property to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School.
Shandu explained that the court process is highlighting an ideological debate about what land ought to be used for and whether land be prioritised for market-value usage or social and historical use which could “shift us” away from the Apartheid spatial legacy.
She says that the Constitution of South Africa “calls on the need to redress” and mentioned what she interprets as the obligation for the state to make land available on an equitable basis as well as the provided right to adequate housing.
“Spatial justice allows us to think about things differently and to ask what a more just space looks like,” said Shandu.
The Tafelberg site in dispute is argued as being a prime potential spot for the provision of centrally located social housing which would address the urgent need for affordable housing in Cape Town while promoting socio-economic inclusion. The property is reportedly over 1.7 hectares large and is located in Sea Point Main Road.
The applicants are looking for the High Court to declare the review and setting aside of the sale of land while also declaring that the City of Cape Town as well as the Western Cape Provincial Government have failed to fulfil their constitutional obligations with regards to redress and the legacy of Apartheid spatial planning.
According to a media summary released by Ndifuna Ukwazi:
“While the City says that it had no meaningful say in the Province’s decision to sell Tafelberg, it challenges Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi’s arguments that the Province and City failed to comply with their constitutional obligations in terms of the right to housing and the right to gain access to land on an equitable basis.
According to the City, the right to housing does not place a duty on the City to provide access to a specific type of housing in a specific area. As a result, the City says it is complying with its obligations to progressively realise the right to housing within its available resource.”
Provincial government, however, has not only justified the sale of the land but also cautioned the Court against interfering in what the Province ultimately regards as “a political decision,” according to the summary.
“The Province argues that it decided to sell the Tafelberg site at a time of fiscal austerity – in terms of which it sought to scale back its spending and find ways of procuring new revenue. The Province argues that these financial issues ‘had an impact on their ability to comply with the range of their constitutional obligations’. In this context, the Province decided to sell the Tafelberg site in a private sale at higher than market rates. In court papers, the Province states that these funds were earmarked to build a new office space for the Western Cape Education Department.
The Province also asserts that the Court should be reluctant to interfere with its decision to sell Tafelberg because this was a political decision associated with raising revenue. According to the Province, courts should not interfere with the political decisions that should fall exclusively to the provincial executive branch of government.”
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