This little Zille went to market?...

2015-03-15 15:05

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Western Cape Premier Helen Zille may have flouted the rules in a bid to accommodate her longtime associate Sheryl Ozinsky, who runs her weekly market from the premier’s official residence, Leeuwenhof, in Cape Town.

Zille told City Press on Friday she had opened Leeuwenhof to the market without following due process because state red tape would have delayed it.

In November, Zille unilaterally decided to allow the popular Oranjezicht City Farm Market – which had been operating from Homestead Park, a provincial heritage site in Oranjezicht adjacent to the farm where the produce is grown – to relocate to Leeuwenhof.

The market was shut down in Oranjezicht because of heritage requirements and other restrictions, and Zille’s Twitter followers lobbied her to save it.

But her official residence is also a provincial heritage site.

Stallholders display their wares last year at the Oranjezicht Farm Market on the lawn of Helen Zille’s official residence, Leeuwenhof.
Picture: Yunus Mohamed

Three officials in the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town told City Press that, in her rush to accommodate the market, Zille failed to comply with the rules and regulations.

Among the concerns raised were the failure to hold a public participation process for the use of state property; the opening of Leeuwenhof to an associate at the state’s expense; and noncompliance with some city bylaws regulating traffic and noise levels.

Ozinsky is the former head of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which was created to market the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape. Some sources have claimed the women are close friends.

Zille said she had known Ozinsky “for many years, as I know hundreds of other Capetonians”.

Asked why a public participation process was not held before the market moved to Leeuwenhof, Zille said: “In many instances, such a land availability arrangement would be [made].

“But in these circumstances, with the notice [to Oranjezicht] served by Heritage Western Cape – which would have meant the sudden end of the market – the premier offered vendors an alternative venue so the market, its job creation and convenience to the public was not stopped by government red tape.”

CEO of Heritage Western Cape Andrew Hall said this week that the Oranjezicht market had originally been established within a space that had been declared a provincial heritage site. Permits were needed for any structure erected in such a place, including temporary structures, he said.

“No permit was applied for, despite the Oranjezicht City Farm being instructed by the municipality to do so,” said Hall.

Helen Zille saving farmers

He said the market at Leeuwenhof was not within the confines of the declared area, so no permit had been required. However, its move to Leeuwenhof had triggered a section of the National Heritage Resources Act that sets out a system for assessment of impact – and, Hall said, this had been complied with.

Zille said that without a venue for the market, there would have been no outlet for the farm’s produce nor a market for many vendors.

Zille said she offered Leeuwenhof to enable those who depend on the market to make a living and for the satisfaction of the market’s socioeconomic goals.

The market attracts an elite clientele who mainly reside in the suburbs of Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof and Gardens in the City Bowl.

Zille said the market covered the direct costs associated with the use of water, electricity and refuse, for example, and that all other direct costs – like cleaning, security and recycling – were paid for by the farm.

But provincial government sources told City Press that, because the market was being held at the premier’s residence, security around the property had been increased at a cost to the state. They claimed the maintenance of the property, and especially the costs for maintaining the lawns where the market was held every Saturday, had escalated.

But Zille said other costs of ownership were “sunk costs”, or those the Western Cape government already pays to manage the property. “So any additional costs incurred by the market, over and above those the state would have to pay in any event for Leeuwenhof, are paid for by the market.”

The costs associated with fire regulations, a certificate of compliance, crowd control, some traffic management, security, medical and lifeguards sat squarely with the market, she said, but the state had an ongoing role in the security of the facility.

Ozinsky said she had all the permits she needed to run her market from Leeuwenhof. She denied being a close friend to Zille.

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