Fierce opposition to rezoning of farm land

While MEC for Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape, Alan Winde has called for an agriculture-based study in the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA), Nazeer Sonday, chairman of the PHA Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association, said they are not in favour of any study and will never agree to mixed use of the area as it is zoned for agriculture.

Proposals to rezone parts of the area for development are being fiercely contested by those who want to protect what is considered Cape Town’s bread basket. Mr Sonday recently wrote to Mr Winde, saying studies and rulings have already cost the taxpayers over R4 million, starting with the 2009 PHA Rapid Review Recommendations.

“As you will notice all these studies call for the protection and management while none call for the PHA as a solution to the housing crisis,” said Mr Sonday.

However, Mr Winde says that when looking at an aerial view “of this agricultural gem” there are a lot of open spaces where dumping is taking place and others used for sand mining. “My department is always under pressure to develop agricultural land and that’s why we need an agriculture-based study to show exactly what is produced,” he says.

Mr Winde announced the study following a standing committee meeting on agriculture on Wednesday June 21.

Susanna Coleman, PHA campaign volunteer from Kenilworth, says the PHA campaign heard about the meeting from ANC representative Cameron Dugmore who had asked that the issue be placed on its agenda.

“It’s shameful. What province is proposing is illegal. The ultimate decision to rezone the PHA rests in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture Senxeni Zokwana.

“The City has applied for rezoning twice in the past, in 2009 and again in 2012, they were turned down. There have been five studies in the past, they all say the same, protect and manage the PHA,” said Ms Coleman.

ANC activist Colin Arendse says he is at a loss to understand why Mr Winde has seen the need to conduct another study when civil society has already spoken out loud and clear about the PHA debacle.

Beverley Schafer, the chairperson of the standing committee on economic opportunities, agriculture and tourism, said that she would be engaging with Mr Winde as well as his environmental affairs and development planning counterpart, Anton Bredell, on the way forward.

Ms Schafer urged the committee to take action to end the ongoing controversies surrounding the area, “Because I am very worried about the protection of the area. We need to take immediate steps and come up with solutions as it could also revitalise the area as it will accommodate emerging farmers,” said Ms Schafer.

Mr Sonday says if U-Vest Property Group’s rezoning application goes ahead it means that 3 000ha of the PHA, the city’s breadbasket which produces
200 000 tons of food annually, will be paved over with
30 000 houses, two shopping centres, a private school and a private prison. The area is the primary recharge area of the Cape Flats aquifer.