Editorial: Strange developments

Editorial: Strange developments
Cape Times

August 7 2013

THE CITY of Cape Town likes to boast that it is the best-run metropole in South Africa, an assertion backed by annual audits conducted by the national government.

The city also sees itself as a caring city, innovative, progressive and efficient.

What then are we to make of the city council’s recent stand on several rather controversial developments?

First, there is the city’s curious intransigence – and relative silence – on the unsolicited bid to develop a shopping mall on the shores of Princess Vlei, a potential environmental and cultural treasure for the people of Cape Town if sensitively preserved.

Then there is its entertaining of a bid to radically alter the urban edge to allow a privately funded, massive development called Wescape to potentially go ahead on the West Coast.

Third, there is the unanimous (some say not without duress) decision by the DA caucus in council to vote in favour of the alteration of the urban edge in the Philippi Horticultural Area to accommodate a private sector housing development.

Fourth is the withdrawal last year of the spatial planning and land use management committee’s decision-making powers, making it an advisory body only.

And fifth are the proposed amendments to the city’s system of delegations for economic, environmental and spatial planning matters which, according to several civic organisations, would in effect remove the rights of the public to object in any meaningful way to development proposals. They argue that this would give the city almost dictatorial powers over new developments.

The above is a very simplified summary of what appears to be happening in our supposedly democratically run city.

The city argues that it is replacing “red tape with a red carpet”. A red carpet for whom?

A cosy cabal of developers? A network of well-connected companies?

We can only speculate, because detail is thin on the ground. But let us be vigilant, and make sure that democratic decision-making does not get swept under the red carpet.

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