The City’s ‘spin’ about the removal of subcouncils’ powers concerning land use planning

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16 June 2013

The Editor

The Cape Times


The City’s ‘spin’ about the removal of subcouncils’ powers concerning land use planning

 I refer to Cllr. Bloor’s reply on 14 June also printed in the Cape Times, to our Open Letter to the Mayor concerning the proposed removal of subcouncils’ delegated powers to deal with land use planning matters affecting their wards, published last Wednesday.

For Cllr. Bloor to say that these proposed revised delegations are not designed to diminish the role of subcouncils is disingenuous or he has been sadly misled by his officials or he has not understood the import of the proposals. A few minutes study of agenda item C29/05/13 [Item 69] – Illustration of changes to proposed delegations, available on the City’s website, reveals that in Section 61 – Subcouncils it is planned to remove the following huge chunks of their present delegated authority, representing subcouncils’ present entire delegated authority in respect of land use planning:

  • Planning & Environmental Matters [Sections 1 -40 deleted: May 2013]

    • In terms of LUPO [Sections 1- 32]

    • Applications made in terms of the Less Formal Township Establishment Act No. 125 of 1991 [Sections 33 -35]

    • Regulations promulgated in terms of the Black Communities Development Act No. 4 of 1984 [Sections 36 – 37]

    • Consent in terms of title deed restrictions [Sections 38 – 40]

The intention is to leave subcouncils merely with the power to decide on street-naming, and even then only if the naming is not associated with a land use application.

His remark that the change in delegation authority is to ensure that decisions are grounded in policy is also specious. As the system stands at present no land use decisions taken by subcouncils are the final word; all their decisions are reviewed and agreed or amended further up the City Council food chain, or on occasion at Provincial government level, where the current land use planning policy can be applied to the subject matter of the application.

His implied suggestion that subcouncils make their decisions in an arbitrary fashion, in favour of individuals or groups of individuals without taking into consideration other stakeholders’ existing rights, is breathtaking. Is Cllr. Bloor suggesting that members of subcouncils, made up of city councillors like himself, cannot be trusted to uphold the law, whether it be national, provincial or municipal, whereas a faceless official, totally unaccountable to the communities in respect of which the decisions are made, is the only person who can be trusted to apply the City’s policies correctly?

It is apparent that Cllr. Bloor believes that subcouncils make decisions that run counter to current City policies. That is a most interesting proposition. City policies are made by the current political party in power in the Cape Town municipality, at present the Democratic Alliance (DA). All subcouncils have a majority of DA councillors. If they are continuously making decisions that do not accord with City policy it surely means that the majority of councillors do not agree with the direction being taken by their political bosses, advised by officials, in governing the City. That is a scary thought and should make all ratepayers concerned about what the future holds for their beautiful city.

Cllr. Bloor further states that individuals and associations of individuals within communities are actively invited to participate in informing policy formulation. It would be interesting to learn when and how individuals and associations of individuals within communities have been involved in the production of the proposed revision of delegations that will result in the emasculation of subcouncils’ powers regarding land use planning.

Cllr. Bloor’s repeated reference to the concern of investors regarding certainty is illuminating. Presumably he refers to developers, whom the City seems ever more anxious to please and appease; hence the mayor’s Red Tape to Red Carpet battle cry. From the political polemic in his letter it appears that what the DA really wants is a free hand to do what it wants in Cape Town land use planning matters, by closing down the space presently afforded for constructive public comment and participation in the workings of local government; the comment and participation which provides the checks and balances on authoritarianism essential in a properly working democratic political system.

The more one learns about the Red Tape to Red Carpet project, the clearer it becomes that what started out as a sensible aim has developed in a direction which is the very antithesis of the DA’s core values as expressed in the party’s principles, which we feel sure Cllr. Bloor must know, as every aspirant DA councillor is expected to learn them off by heart.

It seems to us that the policy makers at the political head of the Cape Town City Council are quite oblivious of their duty, in terms of both the Constitution and the Municipal Systems Act, to provide transparent and accountable government and involve the governed population in the implementation of policy on land use planning.

We firmly believe that the present system of delegations provides a sensible balance of authorities which ensures the desired absolute certainty of outcome for a land use planning application, if that application is couched in accordance with the policies which Cllr. Bloor emphasises as being paramount. We trust that the attempt to alter the system is not being done to suit any particular type of business activity, for if that were so it would lay the City open to a charge of partiality and the birth of suspicions as to the reason therefor.

Finally, we are pleased to hear from Cllr. Bloor that the City will continue to engage communities and strengthen its subcouncil system. We are at a loss however to relate that admirable sentiment to the totally undemocratic proposal to revise the system of delegations in a manner which excludes subcouncils and interested and affected individuals entirely from the decision-making process concerning land use applications.


Yours sincerely

Len Swimmer



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