Threat of closure looms

A decision to halt funding could force the Cape Town Partnership to close its doors.

The non-profit organisation was started in 1999 – in a partnership between the City of Cape Town, the South African Property Owners Association and the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry – in response to a deteriorating CBD, where businesses were moving out and the streets weren’t safe.

The organisation has, over the last 17 years, shifted its focus from making the CBD a business destination to making the larger City Bowl area and surrounds more liveable and inclusive for all Capetonians.

However, the City will no longer be supplying funding to the Cape Town Partnership – a move that could see the organisation forced to close.

Yesterday (Monday), the Partnership’s board decided all staff contracts will not be renewed and the board will be working with a small core of voluntary staff members, who “will assist in figuring out the future”. A final decision of the future of the Partnership is expected to be made in October.

Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, Cape Town Partnership CEO, says: “It seems that the City has changed its strategy. We know that the City has recently restructured. The department of tourism, events and economic development that has funded the Cape Town Partnership no longer exists within the City structure.

“Agencies like ours, which have been around for a while, do not appear to be catered for in the new strategy.”

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson says the City reviews its relationships with all its partner organisations on an ongoing basis.

“A key approach has been to move from purely funding, to funding tied to clear deliverables. A further requirement is that organisations need to develop a sustainable model of funding that does not rely solely on funding from the City. A further step is then that organisations need to bid for work from the City rather than have the expectation that they will be funded on an ongoing basis,” he explains.

“The City engaged with the Cape Town Partnership over a number of years over our concern that they relied almost entirely on funding from the City, despite the fact that they have been in existence for nearly 20 years.

“We further indicated to them that they will have to find other funding sources and will have to in future bid for work from the City. The funding was thus reduced over time to give them the opportunity to make adjustments in their organisation and find alternative sources of income.

“They would be able to get funding from the City in future if they were able to make successful bids on research work that the City sought to contract.”

Makalima-Ngewana says: “Our funding from the City was in the form of an operational grant. During the past two years, we’ve hit stumbling blocks in our attempts to diversify our funding base.

“National and international funders point out that the benefits of the work of the Cape Town Partnership accrue to the city, and as such, should be funded locally.”

The work the Partnership was established to undertake has largely been achieved, adds Neilson.

Just some of the Partnership’s success stories are the development of the central city development strategy, bidding for the title of World Design Capital, projects such the City Walk – an inner-city walking route to encourage locals and visitors to explore the inner city of Cape – and the formation of the Hout Bay Partnership, Makalima-Ngewana says.

“All cities require public-private partnerships to do the things that government is unable to do.

“During the last two years, we’ve increasingly hosted delegations from cities around South Africa, several African cities and international urban planning practitioners,” she says.

“A public-private partnership for urban regeneration cannot be left in the hands of property developers only. This sector remains largely untransformed, which leads to a minority deciding the future for the majority.

“Our job as the Cape Town Partnership has been to serve as the glue or connector between the public and private interests.

“In retrospect, I realise that we could have been more vocal on this point, but it’s always a difficult terrain to navigate.

“So, while looking back does wring our hearts a little – knowing that we won’t be able to continue working on making Cape Town a truly liveable African city – we’re also proud of the successes our partnerships helped manifest.

“Though it may be subtle, we’re confident that our imprint – along with the many others who make this city what it is – will remain on the Mother City for a long time to come.”

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