Make Cape Town different – letter to Zille

In a letter to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille this week, architect Ilze Wolff, and her husband and business partner Heinrich Wolff, argued why Cape Town needs to change:

At the launch of the Reclaim the City campaign, three other sites were identified: the Alfred Street Complex, Top Yard and Helen Bowden Nurses Home next to the V&A Waterfront.

The four sites all have the same thing in common: they are located within a rich network of opportunity that is the central city.

Other parts of the city, such as the apartheid residential suburbs, do not offer a density of networks of opportunity that are currently available in the central city. This includes good public transport, well-located healthcare facilities, cultural institutions, educational institutions, leisure activities, public spaces, and economic and commercial opportunities.

Added to this kind of density of urban infrastructure is the proximity to the sea and the mountain, spaces of contemplation, spaces of dreaming. The location of settlement near this kind of spectacular nature is a human desire and shared benefit that cannot be disregarded.

Currently, the site has been sold to private developers who do not have the intention of historic redress that is required for equitable spatial justice.

The sale is supported and vehemently defended by the Sea Point, Bantry Bay and Fresnaye Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, which has vocalised in the media its strong opposition to correcting historic spatial injustices and violent claims to land in Sea Point.

Many members are white men, ironically speaking for the continued exclusion of black women and children; for the continued exclusion of mothers who clean the homes of rich Sea Point residents.

The past lives in the present in the most powerful ways.

Unjustified historic claims to desirable space, apartheid and subsequent forced removals have given a racial, patriarchal and imperialist dimension to the modern development of Cape Town.

Tafelberg is public land and has the opportunity to redress historic spatial violence. Tafelberg presents government with a rare opportunity for spatial justice. This potential, amid a dominant culture of land acquisition for private gain, is an invaluable and fragile opportunity for social justice, using space to set up networks of care, respect, dignity and inclusion.

Selling and privatising public land is an opportunity lost. It is a disposal of the potential to redress historic spatial injustices and thus a violent continuation of the racialised, patriarchal imperialist project of the past.

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July 2020

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