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11 Jun 2013, Cape Times

Keith Gottschalk, Claremont

GLENN ASHTON’S letter, “Alliance between city and developers undermines rights” (Cape Times, June 10) merits praise for being the first to expose publicly the lobbying mechanisms that property developers set up to pressure the municipality.

Len Swimmer’s simultaneous open letter to mayor Patricia de Lille alerts us to how the City of Cape Town wants to change both procedures and bureaucratic structure so as to marginalise objectors, and to facilitate rushing through the mega-projects that are most lucrative for property billionaires.

Each time the city attempts this trick, it will provoke new queries about how many secret donations the DA gets from the construction and real estate lobbies.

More research will tell us that the reality is even more sombre than Ashton and Swimmer argue.

Many of these attempted grabs to privatise public land – such as the Sea Point Pavilion, Princess Vlei and Knysna – in fact started under ANC provincial and municipal authorities, and cosily continued after the DA election wins of these authorities – until public challenge grew big enough to block them.

We also witness how when the unemployed build beyond the urban edge, they are driven back with rubber bullets, as at Hangberg.

But when billionaire property developers march beyond the urban edge, such as north of Hangberg, at Durbanville or Knysna, the municipalities and province grovel and wag their tail, or even grant retroactive condonation. This is a rare case where we can measure class power.

None of this started after 1994. Before democracy, some estate agents were eager to stand as candidates for municipal councillors, regardless of party.

In short, the reality which Ashton’s letter and Swimmer’s article bring to public attention is a permanent reality – regardless of which party is currently in power. It requires more Capetonians to participate in their ratepayers’ associations, and to support the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance as a countervailing power, to make democracy work for all of us.

It will be too late to only complain when the rotating concrete mixers arrive next door, or on the shores of Princess Vlei, or start building Wescape, alias Atlantis 2.

 

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