Philippi Horticultural farmers protest against proposed Cape Town housing developments

NO TO DEVELOPMENT: Patricia Gcilishe, a farmer from Khayelitsha, leading a group of Philippi farmers who were picketing. They are trying to stop the city from using their land for development. Picture: Phando Jikelo

NO TO DEVELOPMENT: Patricia Gcilishe, a farmer from Khayelitsha, leading a group of Philippi farmers who were picketing. They are trying to stop the city from using their land for development. Picture: Phando Jikelo

PhilippiProtestClippingCape Times
Thursday 07 April 2016

PHILIPPI’S farming community staged a protest outside an event to launch a development which critics say will negatively transform one of Cape Town’s largest aquifers in favour of a mixed-use development.

The circumstances around a development planned for the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) is also the subject of a probe by the public protector.

The call for an investigation came from an umbrella body supported by more than 25 organisations which belong to the PHA Food and Farming Campaign.

They called for an “urgent investigation” into the “irrational and unconstitutional” actions of Environmental, Planning and Development MEC Anton Bredell and mayor Patricia de Lille threatening the PHA, which is a critical food security resource.

At issue is a plan by company Rapicorp 122 to construct a housing development, Oakland City, comprising residential and industrial units.

A plan for the development dated May 2015 says property developers, listed as Oakland City Development Company Ltd (Rapicorp), owns 472.36 hectares of land which will be developed for a shopping centre, and residential and community facilities.

The consequences, the opponents say, will threaten the livelihoods of emerging farmers and their workers, as well as local food security, and seriously damage an aquifer which stretches for about 630km2 and provides water to local farms.

PHA Food and Farming Campaign spokesperson Nazeer Sonday said the area produced 150 000 tons of vegetables each year.

“The City has given the Rapicorp developer permission to rezone the agriculture land into housing – without any environmental impact assessment (EIA) being approved. This is in violation of national legislation and a blatant violation of our rights as the community affected,” Sonday said.

He said the group wanted to counter the narrative that the housing development would be for those in need – whereas it would be gated housing which would eradicate 4 000 farmworker jobs, and send the price of vegetables skyrocketing and destroy the aquifer.

“This ‘economic development’ will also see (property) rates in Mitchells Plain and Strandfontein spiral, cause extreme flooding in winters, and add hours’ commute to work and back on a daily basis.”

Susanna Coleman, also of the campaign, said the City had attempted to bulldoze the project without the proper EIA process being conducted.

“This development cannot pass the EIA. We believe if you evaluate that development on its merits, it will not pass. And we are fighting for an honest process.”

Mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning Johan van der Merwe said the Oakland City Development Framework was approved in September 2015.

“Subsequently the land use application, which includes rezoning and subdivision, is currently being advertised.

“No decision has been made and due process is still being followed.”

He said Rapicorp has also submitted an EIA application to the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning. This application is under review.

Once finalised, a record of decision will be issued by the provincial government, and it will clearly identify the various development impacts and opportunities which will be used to inform the decision made on the land use application.

Van der Merwe said more than 3 400 property owners and 20 civic associations have been notified of the application by registered mail sent on March 18.

Residents can submit their comments, including objections, by April 29.

“In light of our overall approach to water demand management, it must be emphasised that the Cape Flats Aquifer is highly valued and well understood,” he added.

Project development manager George Viljoen was contacted for comment. He informed the Cape Times that he would check on issues and respond.

He could not be reached again.

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