By Jaime Uranovsky
The long-awaited outcome of the Tafelberg property dispute has been decided in a judgment from the Cape High Court. Ultimately, the court decided in favour of the group of activists (including Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City), who contended that the Western Cape Provincial Government should use the site for a mixed-use social housing development instead of selling it to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School (PJJDS). The sale has thus been set aside and Samuel Seeff, Chairman of the WP Priorities and Planning Board, and Lance Katz, Director of PJJDS, have decided not to appeal against the judgment.
In a statement they issued to the community, they wrote,
“This decision was not taken lightly… Nonetheless we believe that this decision is in the best interests of the community at this time. Despite the suitability of the Tafelberg site to meet the communal needs, it was felt that the community could not wait indefinitely for an outcome that would take years to finalise in terms of an appeal process. There are community needs that must be addressed now, and it was felt that we needed to direct resources and energies elsewhere, without having to manage the ongoing legal and financial uncertainty of the Tafelberg site… Of course, there is a sense of loss given the hopes and aspirations that we had for the property and the benefits that we intended for the Jewish community, residents of Sea Point and citizens of Cape Town. We wish to express our appreciation to all of those involved with the Tafelberg matter over the past five years, especially our generous funders who made the bid possible in the first place, our communal leaders for their time and commitment, as well as the broader communal support that we have received”.
Asked to comment further on the decision, Lance said, “It is not easy to walk away from an opportunity that we invested so much time and energy into over the last five years, particularly given the unique characteristics of Tafelberg. Nonetheless, taking everything into account, we believe we have made the best decision for the community at this time. Although things didn’t pan out as we originally hoped, it doesn’t detract from the enormous generosity of our funders in having backed our bid in the first place, and the amazing community support we have received at various levels. We have a remarkable community”.
Samuel added, “We’re obviously disappointed that our vision for the site couldn’t come to fruition for factors that we couldn’t control, and we certainly didn’t envisage at the outset, five years ago, that we’ve be faced with the kind of difficulties and challenges we’ve had to face in order to gain control over the site. Now that it is no longer viable, as a community we’ll have to regroup, look at what is required in terms of different structures for the different organisations and see what plans we can put forward working together, rationalising services, potentially finding new sites for some of the organisations, and just relook in general at the structures that the community works from and the services they offer”.
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