Renewal of Rondebosch Golf Club lease unjust to the poor: activist group

22 October 2020 - 10:12
The City of Cape Town's decision to renew the lease of Rondebosch Golf Club is blindingly short-sighted and has failed to address the city’s spatial injustices, says Ndifuna Ukwazi.
The City of Cape Town's decision to renew the lease of Rondebosch Golf Club is blindingly short-sighted and has failed to address the city’s spatial injustices, says Ndifuna Ukwazi.
Image: Gallo Images

The City of Cape Town’s decision to renew the decade-long lease of Rondebosch Golf Club is blindingly short-sighted and has failed to address the city’s spatial inequalities brought about by its colonial and apartheid history, activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi has charged.

The group said it is aware of at least 1,682 objections that were submitted by the public, calling for the city not to renew the lease, but rather to redistribute this land, following a campaign by civil society groups for the land to be sensitively developed.

Michael Clark, researcher for Ndifuna Ukwazi, said the 45.99ha golf course is big enough to host 45 rugby fields or a small suburb. “Based on our feasibility study, the land leased to the Rondebosch Golf Club has the potential to build a new mixed income community including at least 1,433 affordable homes,” he said.

This week the city announced that it has approved the renewal of the lease in principle. In the new lease it has hiked its annual tariff tenfold from R920 a year to R10,000, and has also introduced a two-year cancellation clause to allow easy access to the property just in case it considers a different usage of the land.

The in-principle approval is on the city council’s agenda for October 29. The city said its spatial planning and environment as well as human settlement directorates have confirmed that golf course is not suitable for housing purposes at this point. The two-year cancellation clause built into the lease agreement would be used “should this position change”.

The city said the golf course played an important role in managing water pollution in the Black River ecosystem. But Clark said rather than making small tweaks the city should take a radical stance for spatial justice by urgently developing the suitable land, or the section which is not below a floodline, as a dense inclusive neighbourhood.

“This expansive parcel of public land is located right next to the King David Mowbray Golf Course which also uses public land for the enjoyment of a minority for the same purpose — golf.”

He said the proposed tariff increase did not address the core issue, “that vast tracts of prime public land continue to be tied up in inefficient, exclusive and unjust uses rather than being used to tackle spatial apartheid”.

The use of land in a housing crisis is only used for the enjoyment of the few.
Michael Clark, Ndifuna Ukwazi

“Twenty-six years after apartheid, Cape Town continues to be characterised by deep and enduring spatial inequalities that have been brought about by its colonial and apartheid history and an exclusionary housing market.

“This spatial injustice has meant that the vast majority of poor and working-class families, who are predominantly black and coloured, have been excluded from accessing housing in the well-located areas of Cape Town,” said Clark.

The golf course was the centre of housing protests in March last year, when members of Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi occupied the course, demanding that the land be used for social housing

The city’s draft human settlements strategy, which is still open for public comment until November 30, notes that to eradicate its housing backlog, 500,000 housing opportunities need to be created every year until 2028.

Clark said currently, the public and private sectors are jointly developing less than 20,000 housing opportunities per year, many of which fall outside the affordability range of the vast majority of Capetonians.

“This is a far cry from closing the 356,000 housing backlog in Cape Town alone. The redistribution of public land should be approached holistically to close this gap and promote spatial, racial and economic inclusivity.” 

Spatial injustice has been exacerbated by the city’s state-subsidised housing programme, which prioritises building houses on the outskirts of the city where land is cheap. Despite having 24 golf courses, of which 10 are on public land, “not a single social housing unit has been completed in the city centre since the dawn of democracy”. 

Ndifuna Ukwazi believes that where a person lives in a city matters as it determines a person’s access to opportunities and the quality of services. It said many peripheral areas, where the working class live, have limited access to basic services, with schools performing poorly and social amenities such as hospitals and clinics not easily accessible.

“In this context, it is critical that well-located public land be used to alleviate the housing crisis. The city owns vast amounts of public land and continues to lease this land out to private institutions at nominal amounts, meaning that most of this prime public land has failed to yield additional affordable housing.

“The city must reconsider the use of publicly-owned land that it avails for exclusive use like golf courses and bowling greens. These sports do not have maximum domestic membership, which clearly indicates that the use of land in a housing crisis is only used for the enjoyment of the few,” said Clark.

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