Let us rescue the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) – THE BREAD-BASKET AND AQUIFER OF CAPE TOWN – from the grasp of private developers aided by members of the Cape Town Mayoral Committee (Mayco).
On July 31 2013, Mayco decided to rescind their own 2012 resolution to keep the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) zoned agricultural. In effect they are signing away 300 hectares of prime agricultural land to private developers for middle income housing projects. Yet there are 800 hectares of marginal agricultural land in the PHA along the urban edge which are readily available to government to use for housing development precisely because they are not ideal for agriculture.
On 16 July 2013, Mayor Patricia de Lille and the DA councillors who make up Mayco – without public participation by the citizens of Cape Town – decided to support the MSP Group Property Developers in their bid to build in prime agricultural land in the PHA. Mayco’s decision
• contradicts the City Council’s own policies laid out in its Urban Agricultural Policy which aims to enable the poor to use urban agriculture for survival and to make a living;
- contradicts the city council’s Evaluation of Developable Land Within the Urban Edge report of 2010 which states that there is enough land to develop inside the urban edge until 2021;
goes against the Western Cape government’s Sustainable Human Settlements Strategy, which is a shift from providing RDP-type housing to creating sustainable human settlements with sustainable resource use;
• contravenes the Cape Town Spatial Development Framework, approved by council last year, which took the city five years to develop with extensive public input. The framework states that the ‘loss of agricultural land to urban development threatens food security in the city’ and says one of Cape Town’s assets is ‘high potential and unique agricultural land’. Policy 28 of the framework states that existing farmed areas must be protected from urban encroachment, and urban agriculture must be supported. In particular, the city must police land uses in the Philippi Horticultural Area which do not conform to agriculture. It says the city must ‘investigate and encourage’ opportunities to expand urban agriculture, and rates Philippi as an area of ‘significant agricultural value’.
Now that Mayco, backed by DA leader Helen Zille, has made their questionable stance clear, it is time for us to take this matter to the next level: the MEC of Local Government , Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, still has to approve the Mayor’s decision. Let our signatures persuade him not to!
After the MEC, the National Ministry must approve.
We have the chance to stop this madness at each higher level.
Let us collect 5000 signatures to present to MEC Bredell. If he does not listen, we will then aim for 10 000 signatures to take to the National Ministry and we will also launch a complaint with the Public Protector.
The MSP Group and Mayco say their decision is based on wanting to meet the urgent need to address the housing backlog for the poor. But this development is not going to target the poor, and is certainly not for the thousand destitute families who currently live in informal settlements in the PHA.
So who exactly will benefit from this proposed “medium and low cost housing” development on prime agricultural land?
And why the sudden urgency now, when council found it prudent to not support any urban development within the PHA pending its own Food Systems Study which it commissioned in June 2013 and is not yet completed?
Mayco’s strange decision flagrantly contradicts the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) recommendations to policy makers to incorporate urban agriculture into urban planning as a way to combat urban poverty, and to “actively seize the opportunities offered by urban agriculture.” In the year that Cape Town is entering the international spotlight as it prepares for 2014 Design Capital, this Mayco decision is nothing short of a design a disaster. The meeting on Wednesday will ratify or abandon the decision of 16 of July (to create a massive suburb on prime food producing lands) without public participation!
To compound the situation, the MSP Group’s development would endanger not only Cape Town’s food security, but would also potentially cause irreversible damage to Cape Town’s major potable water supply, the Cape Flats aquifer – directly upon which MSP’s six thousand houses would be built.
Please sign this petition to protect the PHA, our food and water security, and moreover to protect our constitutional rights. Section 195(1) of our constitution sets out the values and principles governing the public administration in great detail including the words “People’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making” and “Public administration must be accountable”. The fate of the PHA affects all the citizens of greater Cape Town and we invoke our Constitutional right to ‘participate in policy-making’ on the present and future development of the PHA.
PHA farmers- both commercial and emerging- produce over 48 vegetable types which make up over 50% of fresh vegetables consumed in Cape Town. Over 30% 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. Farming creates jobs, and notably in the PHA, many unskilled women are employed. In a climate of rising fuel and input costs the PHA is ideally located close to the city and is thus an important insurance policy against runaway food prices and for our access to affordable and fresh food.The PHA is not only the most important agricultural resource for a sustainable Cape Town 2014 and beyond, but is also the main sump for recharging the Cape Flats aquifer, which gives Greater Cape Town abundant ground water for agriculture.
Numerous sustainable agriculture (and other) organisations and individuals support forward-thinking sound agricultural development of the area – should government endorse it. These include: Soil for Life, Abalimi Bezekhaya, Macassar Food Growers, LOGRA Civic, Coalition for Environmental Justice, The Khayelitsha Development Forum, The Mitchell’s Plain Education Forum, The Ottery Ratepayers Association, Centre for African Studies, African Food Security Urban Network, Philippi East Development Initiative, False Bay Ecology Park, Future Cape Town.
A Democratic Vision Plan for the PHA:
In 2011 local community organisations developed the PHA Vision Plan. This far-reaching plan recognised the importance of the PHA for food security for the people of Cape Town but also realised the need for housing and economic development that could benefit locals, lead to job creation and improved socio-economic spin-offs for the greater Cape Flats. The plan offered marginal agricultural land (approximately 800ha) for urban development, commercial and industrial activity, saving the best farmlands for food production. It also argued for protection of the farmlands through the establishment of an ‘agricultural conservancy’.
On 8 November 2012 the PHA Vision Plan was handed over to Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille, who shortly thereafter endorsed the notion that PHA should be reserved for agricultural use.
Why does she renege now? What hidden agendas lie beneath this sudden motion? In a country all but destroyed by corruption and greed at all levels, let us stand up now for our integrity and demand transparency, public participation, and forward-thinking decisions.
Please sign urgently and pass on to all you know.