Spare a thought for the homeowners of Camps Bay and Clifton
When the City of Cape Town announced this week that it had sold five hectares of the Atlantic Seaboard to private developers for R1-billion‚ there were cries of alarm.
Some were horrified that the city could sell public coastline to private tycoons. Others noted that the city is allocating only R100-million of its vast windfall to affordable housing and wanted to know where the other R900-millon will go. A few remained highly suspicious of the deal‚ pointing out once again that the developers are personal friends of mayor Patricia de Lille.
I don’t know about the ethics of hawking public land to billionaires and I don’t know what’s going to happen to the R900-million‚ but I can reassure readers about potential conflicts of interests involving city officials and developers. Mayoral committee member‚ Brett Heron‚ has confirmed that the deal has been scrutinized by “external auditors”‚ so that’s all good then. Because‚ as we all know‚ auditors are 100% on the side of the taxpayers whose interests they police like hawks.
One of the objections‚ however‚ was exceptional because it was pure comedy gold.
According to the chairperson of the Camps Bay and Clifton Ratepayers Association‚ the problem with the development is – are you sitting down? – gentrification.
“People who are enjoying the area traditionally‚ historically and rightfully won’t be able to afford it any more‚” fumed the chairman of a group of multi-millionaires sitting on the most expensive property in Africa‚ who haven’t uttered a peep as their chums have turned the rest of the Atlantic Seaboard into a steel and glass monument to fuck-you consumption and the relentless obliteration of public access to sea views.
At first glance it looked like self-parody‚ but it was probably quite cunning.
Every so often the rich open a newspaper‚ usually when they’re lining the cages of their pet jaguar‚ and so they will have stumbled upon the notion that people are generally more sympathetic to the plight of the Not-Rich than the rich. Far better‚ then‚ to champion the rights of weekend visitors from Cape Town’s poorer suburbs than to be honest and say‚ “We destroyed your open spaces but now these new-money poseurs want to destroy our open spaces and we haven’t been this sad since we accidentally ordered an UberX instead of an Uber Black.”
Then again‚ perhaps I’m underestimating their genuine terror of gentrification‚ which is‚ after all‚ a step down for the ultra-rich. Because once you allow gentrification to take hold‚ the next thing you know bohemian gallery owners are having babies with coffee-shop entrepreneurs‚ importing flagrantly upper-middle class things into your area like daycare centres and schools and nasty shit like that‚ and within hours it’s basically middle-class and a seething‚ teeming slum.
So this weekend‚ please spare a thought for the homeowners of Camps Bay and Clifton. These are frightening times for them.