‘Build houses on course’

2019-03-26 06:00
Protestors want empty fields, golf courses, bowling greens and parking lots across well-located areas and threaten that in their next protest they will not leave until Ian Neilson “comes out to account”.

Protestors want empty fields, golf courses, bowling greens and parking lots across well-located areas and threaten that in their next protest they will not leave until Ian Neilson “comes out to account”.

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As the nation celebrated Human Rights Day on Thursday 21 March, about 200 housing activists invaded Rondebosch Golf Club in Mowbray in protest, demanding the deputy mayor, Ian Neilson to attend to their grievances.

They started arriving at the club from 10:00, hoping to have Neilson to address them by 13:00. Their demand was to have the City of Cape Town to commit to ending the lease of Rondebosch Golf Course and all well-located public land. “This must be redistributed for affordable housing for poor and working-class people. If the City refuses to meet its obligations, then the province or national government must expropriate the land for affordable housing,” Zacharia Mashele, the spokesperson for Reclaim the City.

Reclaim the City said Rondebosch Golf Course is as big as 45 soccer fields and could house thousands of families and “it has been leased to a private club for R1 000 a year, where membership costs R15 750 a year.”

They said the golf course could rather be used for public land to build affordable housing.

Neilson did not arrive and the members present were not pleased, saying it was the “last straw”. At around 13:00, Mashele confirmed that Neilson had not arrived, and the matter was now with their leadership to decide a way forward, saying this at the same time they were engaging with the local police at the venue and were likely to meet with willing stakeholders.

He said the situation was well monitored, peaceful and everyone was patiently waiting.

Mashele said members of social organisations including #UniteBehind, Equal Education, Social Justice Coalition, Ndifuna Ukwazi and Languedoc Advice Office were present. “As we commemorate Human Rights Day, we remember how our parents and grandparents struggled against discrimination and an oppressive racist regime. They knew that there could be no justice and equality without the return of the land,” Reclaim the City said in the statement.

Later that afternoon, Reclaim the City issued another statement saying: “We called Ian Neilson three times but he refused to pick up. He told the police that he won’t come to address trespassers and criminals. We all agreed that (today) was the last straw. Ian Neilson can’t continue to hide in the shadows while pulling the strings.”

Mowbray Station commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Jairaj Ramesh confirmed that the gathering was peaceful. “However, the main gate was damaged. No one from the City addressed them. They had a picnic and dispersed peacefully at 15:00.”

Explaining the issue of redistribution and housing development in the city, Neilson said: “The City has a great deal of land already earmarked for development. Some of that is to be used for government housing development and some sold to the private sector for development. The limitation on housing development is the lack of funding from the National Government, who is the Constitutional authority for housing development. If more funds were allocated to the City, we would develop the land much faster.”

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