South Africa : Ending The Apartheid City

Cape Town has launched "The World Design City". To have any meaning the programme needs to highlight its unresolved legacy of the Apartheid City. In order to achieve this, the spatial planning of the City needs to be turned on its head.

It can longer morally afford to house the poor on the periphery of the city. The average household pays upwards of 20% of household income simply to transport themselves to places of work. The recently approved extension of the urban edge North West from Blaauberg towards Atlantis is a further endorsement of that Apartheid City.

The first phase must be the identification of land for the housing of poor people, who continue to live like forgotten people 20 years into our democracy. Land has been identified for some time, but as most things in Government Departments the release of that land is tied up in a morass of vested interests and often sheer incompetence.

For example: Wingfield and Youngsfield Airforce bases are barren and available. What is holding up their transfer to the housing authority? Another example is the Culemborg site, long abandoned, by the owners, Spoornet as a goods shunting yard. This land borders the CBD of the City, the docks and the industrial area of Paarden Eiland.

What is holding up this site is that the parastatal Spoornet wishes to develop this area for commercial and industrial purposes. What is immoral about this is that Spoornet or its predecessor SAR&H acquired this land at peppercorn prices from the local authority. It has no right to sell off that land at a profit as it has done surreptitiously over the years of various parcels it no longer required alongside railway lines.

The most insidious of government planning or the lack thereof lies in District VI, where due to inability to be decisive by the Land Claims Department, most of the legitimate claimants have died. Here is land in the heart of the city. Occupation of that land will allow thousands to be part of the city they from where they were once bulldozed.

There are other parcels of land in various ownership. The Two Rivers scheme is but one with mixed state and private ownership. Decisive action could soon open this piece of land and many others.

What is needed is a will and good governance. Perhaps "The world Design City" could be a catalyst for action.

The State is the largest landowner in South Africa. Rapid transfer of land owned by the State at national, provincial and local levels will significantly address the land hunger experienced by both rural and urban populations for residential, agricultural and other commercial purposes.

Agang SA believes that a Clean Competent and Accountable Government is needed to address the structural factors that undermine black people's ability to obtain and use the land as they see fit.

Colonial and apartheid land laws went beyond dispossessing people of their land; they undermined the very livelihoods of black South Africans. They removed as possibilities many ways of using land, including land ownership, tenant farming, share-cropping and extensive land use. These laws also drove people into the migrant labour system, which involved low-skilled and low-wage labour.

Frank van der Velde is a member of Agang SA and a former mayor of Cape Town