The Princess Vlei Forum has taken note that MEC Bredell has signed off on the conditions pertaining to the Princess Vlei mall development, and passed the matter back to the City of Cape Town (as reported in the Cape Times, February 28, p.3)
We find it extraordinary that the processes around this development are continuing, despite not only the vociferous and passionate opposition to this development, especially within the local community, but also in the light of the serious irregularities that we have uncovered.
The developers involved in the case appear to have misrepresented themselves on two occasions. The gravity of this issue, and the apparent reluctance of the authorities to take this matter seriously, have prompted PVF member Kelvin Cochrane to lay a charge of fraud. Cochrane was advised of this course of action by the Commercial Crimes unit, and laid a charge with the Bellville police station on 21/02/13, which was later transferred to Cape Town.
The charges pertain to the directors of the original bid company, and of the company, which is now engaging with the City and Province on this matter. Documents in our possession show that:
- Directors of the original bid company (Insight Property Developers Cape) were also the directors of the consulting company doing the Environmental Impact Assessment (Tshukudu Environmental Services), despite having been proposed to the City of Cape Town by the bid company and despite the person who did the study declaring their independence under oath. The subtlety was that the declaration said they had no connection with the City of Cape Town, which as the owner of the land paid for the study, and made no mention of their affiliation with the bid company.
- The bid was awarded to Insight Property Developers Cape. This company was deregistered in 2010. MEC Bredell’s department has been dealing with an individual who is the director of a separate company with a different registration number. This individual, who was not a director of the original bid company, appealed against the decision by SPELUM in 2011 not to extend the rezoning necessary of the development; and also appealed against some of the revised conditions of the development. The evidence suggests that this individual had no authority to lodge these appeals, and allegedly misrepresented himself as a director of the original company.
- When these irregularities came to light, we queried them with the City, and brought them to the attention of the NPA. In an email to Forum member James George, the City quoted a memorandum issued on December 12, stating that : “Anyone presenting themselves to the City to take up the previous Council decision would have to show:
- That the company that was given the opportunity still exists;
- That they legally represent that company
- That all prerequisites for the determination of the property rights have been adequately and legally fulfilled.”
It seems unlikely that this individual and company will be able to fulfil these criteria.
We would also like to point out that in the document from Bredell’s department pertaining to the conditions, it is stated that “no parties requested an interview”. We would like to point out that the Princess Vlei Forum and the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance (GCTCA) repeatedly requested interviews, and have in their possession letters from Bredell denying the interviews.
The entire handling of the matter has been distressful and disingenuous, and in now way demonstrating the principles of accountability and transparency that our Local Government leaders promise. Considering the multiple reasons put forward by community members and other stakeholders, and the City’s own stated planning objectives, the bid should never have gone this far. Huge amounts of money have been wasted on it, which could have been used to upgrade the vlei into a facility we can all be proud of and preserve the Public Open Space that the local community need and have helped conserve.
We trust that the City will respond openly and honestly to these concerns, and will not continue to associate itself with this tainted deal.
The city has been awarded the Design Capital hosting in 2014 as a statement of faith that it will use this opportunity to uplift neglected areas, and to use design projects to transform lives. The Princess Vlei offers a magnificent opportunity for such a design project; a beautiful natural feature; proximity to socially depressed and deprived areas; a rich cultural history; a strong spiritual value for the religious groups who baptise there; a flow with sporting and recreational facilities desperately needed by the youth; a powerful heritage connection with the Cape’s first citizens.
We appeal to the City to recognise this extraordinary opportunity, terminate finally the bid to destroy this precious asset, and support a WDC design initiative. We are currently involved in putting together such an initiative, which will harness not only professional expertise, but also embark on an extensive programme of community engagement. Local community members, from young school children to wise old centenarians, have demonstrated a profound vision for the vlei, and we intent to capture these in proposing an urban nature park that could be a jewel for Cape Town for generations to come. We are ready to collaborate with the City to create a world-class space.