Princess Vlei Forum Press release
The Princess Vlei Forum is pleased to announce that it will be a signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the City of Cape Town, which will enable the Forum to act as a community liaison group in the management of Princess Vlei. This follows the City’s historic decision in March 2014 to scrap plans for the shopping mall at Princess Vlei in response to community protest.
The Princess Vlei Forum was formed in 2012 to co-ordinate efforts to oppose the mall, and to develop an alternative community vision for the site. Since the March 2014 victory, the Forum has focussed on exploring ways to rehabilitate, upgrade and improve the management of the site.
The MOA will enable the Forum to work collaboratively with the City in managing the GPVCA, and will streamline the process of stakeholder engagement in the area. It will also enable the Forum to assist in mobilising funding for improvements to the site.
The Forum appreciates the City’s willingness to engage with communities on the future of this important wetland area. We look forward to working with the City on transforming the GPVCA into a magnificent nature and heritage site that all can enjoy.
The agreement will be signed by Ms Lokiwe Mtwazi in her capacity as the Executive Director: Community Services, on behalf of the City, and by Philip Bam, chairperson of the Princess Vlei Forum. The signing will take place on the eastern shore of Princess Vlei (off Prince George Drive) at 5pm on Wednesday 9 December.
It will be followed by a 7km guided sunset walk around Princess Vlei of approximately one and a half hours. Dalton Gibbs from the City of Cape Town's Biodiversity Branch will guide us on the nature conservation opportunities and challenges of this beautiful wetland, and point out interesting flora and fauna. All are welcome to participate
City pledges to work with the Princess Vlei Forum in the transformation and management of Princess Vlei
The Princess Vlei Forum is encouraged by the City's commitment to working closely with local communities in the transformation and rehabilitation of the public open space surrounding and including Princess Vlei.
At a general meeting in March this year, Fay Howa (Conservation manager of Princess Vlei, City Parks) and David Gretton (Executive Support Officer to the Mayoral Member for Community Services and Special Projects.) confirmed that the City is willing to liaise with the Princess Vlei Forum as a "Friends" type community custodianship group in the transformation and management of Princess Vlei.
The City has been drawing up a plan for Princess Vlei, based on the community vision presented by the Forum, as well as on its own management priorities. Once this proposal has been approved by the relevant City departments, and considered by the Forum, the Forum will work with the City on enabling a process of thorough and meaningful community engagement. The Forum is strongly committed to ensuring that any decisions regarding Princess Vlei are taken with active community consultation. We have been informed by the City that these proposals will be available for discussion in June.
Since its inception in 2012 to co-ordinate efforts to prevent the mall proposed for Princess Vlei, the Forum has grown steadily, and now has a support base of 900 people on its mailing list, and an active membership of over 90 individuals and organisations. This includes local civic organisations, WESSA, schools, and religious and cultural groups.
A critical part of the Forum’s work has been not only to stop the mall, but to ensure that Princess Vlei is developed and managed under the guidance of the community. The Forum has therefore been committed to building a broad-based, transparent and democratic organisation that can gather the views of interested groups, facilitate the formulation of a community vision for the space, and act as liaison between the City and the community. For this work, the Princess Vlei Forum was recognised as a World Design Capital project on Community-led design, and received an award from the International Association of Public Participation.
Through the campaign a vision emerged of how Princess Vlei could best serve the surrounding community as a natural recreational site, celebrating the Khoisan cultural heritage of the site, its environmental beauty and rich diversity, its spiritual value as a baptism site, its educational value as an outdoor classroom, and its recreational and community building value as a public space. Several workshops were held and an online survey conducted to canvass views on this.
These ideas were consolidated and presented to the City in March 2014, at the historic meeting where Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson announced that in response to the community efforts, the plans for the mall had been scrapped. Since then, the Princess Vlei Forum has been in ongoing dialogue with Alderman Walker’s office to explore ways not only to transform Princess Vlei, but to enable meaningful community engagement in its management. As Princess Vlei is a complex site, involving several City departments, the process has been frustratingly laborious, but we have been assured that the draft plan will be available shortly for review.
What kind of stories do rivers tell? These living water systems are always changing, but they carry the marks of history on their banks. On 27 March I had the chance to follow the Diep River from close to its source, to where it opens into the Little Princess Vlei. This trip was organised by various partners involved in the Source to Sea project, which is exploring integrated and proactive ways to manage river corridors, and is looking at creating a trail along the Diep River as part of this project.
Once, this water system was connected to Princess Vlei and the othervleis in the area through an extensive network of seasonal watercourses and wetlands, but as the map below shows, these water flows have been interrupted by human activity. Humans have had much impact on the course of this river, as my journey revealed.
The Diep River forms a thin, unbroken blue line on this map, but following it is not as straightforward as it looks here.
1 The river originates on the mountain and runs through Cecilia Forest in a beautiful stream
2 It flows through the Constantia Green Belt, alongside the Alphen trail. We joined it opposite the Alphen Hotel, which has been owned by the Cloete family for generations. Alex and Nicky Cloete-Hopkins told us how the river used to drive a water wheel at a small mill, which can be seen here. Successive flooding led to them creating stone gabions to hold the river banks.
3 It offers a restful refuge to passers by, before going under the 4 lane M3 high way.
24 At last we reach the shores of the Little Princess - the waters will move through here, and then onto Zandvlei. The Little Princess Vlei's big sister lies a few hundred meters away, separated by sand dunes. Perhaps one day, these two sisters will be united again, and the water system will be restored to make a beautiful trail from Source to Sea.
We were greatly saddened to hear of the recent death of Anne Gray, a staunch Princess Vlei Forum supporter who was very active in our Flight of Dreams programme. Anne helped to rally members of the Cape Bird Club to introduce scores of school children to the wonderful birdlife of Princess Vlei, and was always on hand with ideas, energy and enthusiasm. Below is a comment on her remarkable contribution to bird conservation from Cape Bird Club member, Gavin Lawson. Gavin also supplied the photographs.
Anne Gray was a long standing member of the Cape Bird Club. She was from the old school where whatever was tackled had to be done properly. She was one of the few people who was capable of seeing the big picture and she saw all the fine detail as well and knew how to pull it all together. She did not take no for an answer if she knew it could be done.
In her life time she must have made hundreds of thousands of phone calls to people requesting input, help, sponsorship, time, effort, whatever was needed. She had a mental list of what was required to make an event successful and made sure all the boxes were ticked before. There was always a plan B if things went pear shaped too.
Anne was responsible for many projects in the CBC, including organising Kirstentbosch Bird Walks for the Centenary which have continued because of their popularity. She always made sure there was a CBC stand at the YES programmes for years, and represented the CBC at the Cape Wetlands Forum.
Anne was hugely committed to getting communities and school children interested and involved in bird conservation. She co-ordinated and drove the new Flamingo Bird Club (FBC) in Philippi, an outreach programme to engage local communities. She helped to raise money for planting fynbos at the Oasis Centre in Philippi, where the FBC was based, and she represented the FBC in the Princess Vlei Forum.
Her efforts extended beyond the bird club, and she also fundraised for the Street Soccer World Championships which got the Cape Town team to the championships. She also raised funds for
the hides and boardwalks at the West Coast National Park.
She ran a company taking visitors into the ocean to observe pelagic birds. This was a challenge, as the unpredictable weather often led to trips being cancelled. Through this project, she became known as Anne Albatross, and she enabled tourists from all over the world to experience our sea birds with the top local bird guides. Anne's tireless energy and enthusiasm will be sadly missed, but will live on in the hundreds of young recruits who discovered birds through her.
By Mea Lashbrooke on behalf of the Princess Vlei Forum.
It is with great sadness that we heard of the death of Kim Broadbent, on Saturday 19th July, 2014. Always cheerful, Kim was a loyal supporter of Princess Vlei, and came to our events in rain or shine. Diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago, Kim remained optimistic, the light of any gathering and was unwavering in her faith. Kim spent her final days at home In the care of her two best friends. She embraced the process of dying with as much lightness of spirit and intelligent interest as she did every experience in her colourful life.
Kim rescued animals, hugged children and always had time for listening deeply to anyone’s problems. When she learnt of the threat facing Princess Vlei, she did not hesitate to stand up and protest.
Kim’s love for the outdoors, for birds and flowers, drew her into the wild as often as possible. In 2012, Kim accompanied members of the Princess Vlei Forum on a hike to Elephants Eye Cave, from where there is a clear view of Princess Vlei, and, where legend has it, a princess once lived.
We will greatly miss her insight and passion. Our deepest condolences go to her family and friends.
The Princess Vlei Forum is delighted to announce that our project Imagine Princess Vlei has been accepted as an official World Design Capital 2014 project.
The project was submitted under the WDC theme of Bridging the Divide, for a community-led collaborative design process to transform the land around Princess Vlei into an urban nature park that will honour its natural and cultural heritage.
After being shortlisted, the project was excluded from the final programme because the City was engaged in negotiations with the developer regarding the sale of the land. Now that the City has resolved not to sell the land, we are once more eligible and have been accorded recognition.
In a significant development last week, Forum members met with the City to present our vision and discuss the way forward. The meeting was chaired by Ald. Belinda Walker, Mayco member for Community Services and Special Projects, and attended by Cllr Jan Burger and a number of COCT staff, including members from the Spatial Planning and Urban Design, Sports and Recreation, City Parks, and Environmental Resource Management departments.
Ald. Walker indicated that the City was very open to the vision presented by the Forum, and that it accorded in many respects with the City’s own intentions with the site. She further indicated that the City was willing to collaborate with and be guided by the community in transforming the site.
We believe Imagine Princess Vlei holds valuable lessons for the community-driven transformation of public space throughout Cape Town, which will help in the evolution of a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive city driven by a dynamic partnership between civic authorities and engaged citizens. It will also leave a lasting legacy of a beautiful space easily accessible to adjoining low-income communities, and open to all, in which to enjoy nature and community activities.
Our campaign to save Princess Vlei from the proposed mall development has always been driven by a bigger vision of transforming the space into an asset that can serve all citizens for generations to come. This vision has been deepened and strengthened by years of tireless and passionate engagement by local and broader communities in rehabilitating, cleaning up and re-imagining this space.
Imagine Princess Vlei creates a unique opportunity for citizen involvement in shaping our urban environment, and we greatly look forward to working with interested community members, the City of Cape Town and the WDC2014 team on this inspiring project. We would also like to invite people to fill in our online survey to let us know what you would like to see at Princess Vlei. Details of our vision may be found on our here.
"The Princess Vlei Forum joins the 460+ projects in the WDC 2014 programme and we look forward to their contribution to this year of social transformation through design. To realise the legacy ambitions of WDC we’d like to see as many of the recognized projects brought to fruition and growth and we wish the Princess Vlei team all the best with the co-design workshops they are planning," said WDC 2014 Programme Director, Nicky Swartz.
Cape Times 31 March 2014
How Princess Vlei was saved from mall development
March 22 was a historic day for Princess Vlei – the day the city finally declared that it would not sell off this iconic public space.
This was reported in the Saturday Argus on the morning of our planned Day of Action and Celebration, where deputy mayor Ian Neilson would later confirm this announcement.
We could not help feeling, as we battled a howling north wind while trying to set up our stalls for the event, that the vlei could have shown a bit more gratitude – offered us some placid, sparkling water, a soft breeze and warm sunshine, instead of white horses scudding a grey surface and flapping banners and gazebos being whipped out of our hands.
But then again, the winds of change are inevitably tempestuous, and the Princess always seems to have a mind of her own.
As the day proceeded, it became something of a microcosm of the 10-year campaign to save the vlei. Huge passion, creativity and vision, some political opportunism, some no-shows and some unexpected guests, a marching band, some kids’ karate, an elderly resident insisting that a huge monster came out of the vlei when she was a child, some chaos and some perfect orchestration, some undersung heroes and some overblown rhetoric, and lots and lots of people just quietly getting on with the event… in other words, all the erratic, wayward but ultimately transformative forces that occasionally come together behind a common vision of our city and remind us that Cape Town is home to all of us.
Cape Town has a history of fighting for its natural and public spaces, but the Princess Vlei campaign had two points that distinguished it. First, the space has been compromised by years of abuse and neglect. Second, the diversity of those who threw their weight behind the campaign was extraordinary – street dwellers and millionaires, schoolchildren and octogenarians, environmentalists and shopkeepers, artists and artisans, all political parties, Rastafarians, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews… It is in these two aspects that the campaign has much to teach us about citizenship, social change and city governance.
The first striking lesson the campaign illustrated was the power of vision. It has been a campaign driven by imagination, by the capacity of those to see beyond the littered shoreline, to recognise the natural life that still breathes in the soil and the waters, to recognise the value of the history and the tremendous potential of the site to build connections between nature and people.
The spark for the campaign was lit by the vision of local resident Kelvin Cochrane, who had transformed wastelands around his home into fynbos sanctuaries. Cochrane recognised the power of fynbos restoration to not only breathe life back into urban wastelands, but to restore dignity and social cohesion to embattled communities. Cochrane’s vision for Princess Vlei was compelling, but it would have remained a pipe dream had it not struck a chord in the local community.
Many people cared about Princess Vlei and remembered it positively. But what had to be overcome was a widespread apathy, a sense of helplessness, nurtured by centuries of being marginalised. People needed not only to want to save the vlei, but to believe that it was possible. Cochrane’s initial Bottom Rd Sanctuary project was an important demonstration of what could be done with slow, systematic intervention.
Thus the campaign to save Princess Vlei began not in the courtroom or municipal offices, but in the soil, beside the water, and it began not with placards but with planting. Planting was a moving experience for all who participated, particularly for the many teenagers and children. They handled the earth in a literal and tactile way, and made a long-term investment – unusual experiences in our denatured world driven by the mantra of immediate gratification. Five years on, those seedlings have flourished into small enclaves of fynbos, offering a glimpse of what the vlei could become, just as the vision and passion for what the vlei could be has flourished in the minds of those who planted.
The campaign grew, people were mobilised and to their credit the city council listened and effectively declined the mall proposal by refusing to extend the rezoning in 2011. This was overturned by a provincial minister – only for the campaign to roll out again, both fortified by the first victory and rendered more militant by the betrayal.
By now the vision had grown, and imagination was driving the campaign. People were striving not just to stop a mall, but to beautify, honour and enhance both the physical space at Princess Vlei and the intangible site of memory and heritage that it represented. Expressed as the People’s Plan, this vision became the basis of an ongoing conversation and engagement, as people occupied the space, used it widely and creatively and allowed themselves to dream of possibilities. Through this engagement, Princess Vlei became a metaphor for many things, a repository of memory, history, culture, holding out the possibility of healing for some of the schisms that have riven our society. As such, it became a symbol of hope.
Awareness grew rapidly as people all over the world became fascinated by this struggle. Thousands signed petitions and sent messages of support, although the numbers who actually came to the vlei at any one time to plant, to pray or create were relatively small. Yet those few had an impact hugely disproportionate to their numbers. As if they’d been entrusted by others to be the guardians of an important impulse within our city, of the drive towards a kinder society that is more environmentally and socially sustainable; that those who can’t afford their own gardens have a particularly pressing need for access to free natural and beautiful spaces; that we all need these common spaces to find our common citizenship.
The experience of this campaign testifies to the power of these shared public spaces as markers of our common identity as citizens. It demonstrates the power of vision in igniting passion, but also the importance of this vision being shared, being negotiated and being collectively embraced. Those for the mall had a vision too, but it was not a vision that resonated with communities. And it tells us that social change is not only effected by demonstrations or powerful people; it can be brought about by people looking out their window, seeing something that needs improving, and getting on and doing it.
For our leaders, it is a lesson in the need to listen and to pay attention. The city speaks the language of ‘public participation’, but often this is tokenism and rubber-stamping. The politicians get nervous about people having too much say because they will be quick to point out hypocrisy and opportunism. City officials get nervous because people can be demanding and complicated and not understand the rules.
But lively civic participation is Cape Town’s only defence against the scale of social and environmental challenges facing us. It is all too easy for those in power to sacrifice long-term social interests for short-term political gain, as we have seen with the Sea Point waterfront, with the Philippi Horticultural Areas, with Princess Vlei, it is the vigilance of the citizens that has drawn attention to the risk posed to these areas by short-sighted expedience and greed.
The city has changed its slogan from ‘This City works for you’ to ‘Making progress possible. Together’. This is a meaningless slogan if the city does not find ways of working transparently and accountably with all communities. To make it meaningful, the leadership needs to meet people halfway, support those working for the long-term good of the city and put political expedience aside. They should be flexible enough to change course if a proposal they have come up with is not what people want. They should not be patronising or suspicious, but willing to discuss difficult choices and complex problems openly and trust in the wisdom of collective solutions.
For much of the last year, we have felt that no one was listening – we were denied meetings with anyone in the city, including councillors, yet Neilson has told us that the decision to stop the mall was made a year ago. For some reason it was felt that speaking to us would compromise their discussions with the developer and yet their conversations with the developer were ongoing. Surely some way needs to be found to enable better channels of communication between the city and the citizens?
And a final lesson to be learnt by all of us, in particular our political leaders, is about value. Commercial value is highly prized in our society. Often it is punted as being of benefit to all, because it will bring jobs and wealth that will supposedly ‘trickle down’ to the poor. But as the divisions between wealthy and poor grow steadily, and as the trickle to the poor dries to a drip or nothing, while the flood to the wealthy expands, this argument is losing its currency.
A Princess Vlei left unmalled, cared for, restored and made accessible in appropriate ways to the community has a value that far exceeds the commercial profit generated by a shopping centre, a value that benefits and will continue to benefit thousands. The benefits of social cohesion, mental health and environmental sustainability are harder to quantify in monetary terms, but they are critical to the wellbeing of a city. And the more the social and environmental health of a city is compromised, the more it will cost us now and in the future. It is perhaps a testament to good leadership if this value has now been recognised, but it should never have been in question.
A considerable investment has been made by the schoolchildren and others who have planted at Princess Vlei, by those who have donated long hours of labour and resources, by those who have funded legal counsel, and yet the only investment mentioned by the city is the investment made by the developer. Had the mall gone ahead, the community investment would not have been recompensed, yet Neilson has made it clear that the developer will be compensated from the public purse.
So a lesson for our leaders is to recognise the value of public spaces, the value of natural resources and the massive and critical value of active, passionate and visionary citizenship.
The decision by the city not to go ahead with the development may be political expedience or it may be that the city has indeed listened – and has accorded value to these intangibles. Or perhaps, as with all human endeavour, it is a bit of both. But even if it is political expedience, it is our democratic voice that has made it expedient for them to listen and that in itself is a reason to celebrate. Neilson has expressed the city’s willingness to work with communities on the transformation of Princess Vlei. This is an excellent opportunity for the city to forge ways of working with citizens, without tokenism and expedience, and we look forward to being part of that engagement.
We would like to pay tribute to those civic leaders (and we know there are many) who were always in our corner, and to the thousands who rallied in different ways to our cause.
Let’s savour this victory, and use it as a platform to transform not only Princess Vlei, but also our city, wherever it is needed.
Author of Unbroken Wing and The Unseen Leopard.
She has written a book for the South African National Biodiversity Institute on urban nature conservation and works with initiatives to build communities through nature conservation. This article was written on behalf of the Princess Vlei Forum
The Princess Vlei Forum greatly welcomes the announcement that the City has cancelled the plans for a mall at Princess Vlei. Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson made the announcement at the Forum’s Day of Action and Celebration at Princess Vlei on March 22, turning the planned protest into a party. He assured the crowd that the plans were not shelved, but cancelled, and further that he looked forward to working with community in developing the area in a way the people wanted.
This represents a significant victory for civil society. It is a testament to the power of collective imagination, the power of memory, and the tenacity and determination of those who recognised that the value of this space far out-weighs the value of a shopping mall. The communities most invested in Princess Vlei have limited financial resources. At times it seemed impossible that we would win against the march of profit. But as one resident remarked to us “If our people stand together we can win this thing.” Princess Vlei represents what can happen when citizens take ownership of their city, and collaborate to ensure that what they value is respected.
The struggle to save Princess Vlei has been a long one, originally inspired by local resident Kelvin Cochrane over five years ago. He initiated a project to rehabilitate Princess Vlei called Dressing the Princess, and encouraged local schools and community members to get involved. For him, it went beyond the rehabilitation of valuable fynbos – by beautifying the area, he was restoring dignity to the neglected and marginalised communities on its banks.
The campaign was taken up by the Lotus River and Grassy Park Residents Association, the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, and other organisations, and the Princess Vlei Forum was formed to spearhead opposition to the mall. The People’s Plan, inspired by Cochrane’s vision of a nature and heritage park at Princess Vlei, became the basis of a community campaign to develop an alternative vision of the space. Last year, the PVF submitted a proposal for a community driven process to design this park to the Word Design Capital, which was shortlisted. It was excluded however from the final list because of the Mall proposal.
In the past five years, the Forum has held several events at the vlei, including community plantings, educational events, carnivals, parades, art events and many others. We have mobilised thousands through print and online media and petitions – 8000 signatures were handed to Neilson on Saturday. We have consulted through workshops, surveys, and interviews, and have developed the people’s plan into a people’s vision for a nature and heritage park. This was handed to the Deputy Mayor on March 22.
The Deputy Mayor’s statement is welcome. But we need more than verbal assurances. In 2011, it seemed as if the issue was won, but victory was snatched away from us when MEC Bredell overturned a decision by council on the rezoning. We are therefore calling on the City to:
· 22 Mar 2014 · Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) · KOWTHAR SOLOMON
City decides to shelve proposed mall, car park and taxi rank
THE CITY of Cape Town has done an about-turn on its decision to sell part of Princess Vlei to mall developers, putting an end to a contentious issue that has dragged on for more than 15 years.
The city told Weekend Argus exclusively that it would today announce its decision to shelve the proposed mall, adjacent car park and taxi rank.
The plans were strongly opposed by environmental lobby groups and residents of neighbouring working-class suburbs who use the green area for ceremonies and recreation.
The development of the land, which is of historical significance to the Khoisan and lies in the endangered Cape Flats fynbos biome, had been in the offing since Insight Property Developers tried to buy it from the city in 1998.
Today’s announcement is likely to be welcomed by environmental groups such as the Princess Vlei Forum, and will put an end to their stand-off with the city, which had the final say after the provincial government gave the deal the green light.
The forum opposed the development of the vlei due to its rich environmental, cultural and historical significance.
Deputy mayor Ian Neilson said yesterday the city had been searching for alternatives before announcing an official halt to the project.
“The city has been in discussion with the prospective developers of the land over the past year to investigate alternatives. We have come to the conclusion that, notwithstanding the zoning that has been achieved for the development, the only workable option would be for the city to cancel the proposed sale.
“Our own valuation of the social value of the land surrounding Princess Vlei, and its potential for enhanced social benefit, has led us to the conclusion that a different vision is required for the land, a vision that we look forward to developing with our residents.”
Insight Property Developers would be compensated for cancellation of the project, although the city was unable to provide an exact figure as it said some legal issues remained outstanding.
Neilson said the city believed the amount would be acceptable to both parties.
The wetland is steeped in Khoisan legend. It is named after a Khoisan princess who, according to legend, was abducted by Portuguese sailors while she bathed in the waters of the vlei. It was also one of the few natural areas coloured people could visit after the apartheid government relocated them to the Cape Flats.
The Cape Town Biodiversity Network listed the vlei as part of its network in 2008 after a study found it contained unique Cape Flats dune strandveld and sand fynbos.
The proposed sale of the wetland was rejected by the city in 2009, but the provincial government overturned the decision.
The city then agreed to sell off a portion of the land late last year, sparking fury from communities.
Allegations of fraud and corruption by the forum, which claimed there were “serious irregularities” about the sale and its approval, led to an investigation by the Hawks and the deal was put on hold.
The lobby to end the development plans was boosted in September when Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu threw his weight behind the preservation of Princess Vlei in a letter to the forum.
“I would like to express my support for the campaign to save the greater Princess Vlei area from the inappropriate development of a shopping mall, and for its protection in perpetuity as a nature and heritage park. Princess Vlei is a valuable place for citizens to come to be close to God and nature, to find peace and to build family and community,” he said.
“It is a much-loved gathering place for communities from surrounding areas. Before the Group Areas Act, landowners of all races lived on its banks. Let us stop destroying our beautiful world for the sake of short-term profit. Let us use our laws to safeguard our natural and cultural heritage.”
Today’s announcement paves the way for the forum to continue its own project to revitalise the land, “Dressing the Princess”.
The project aims to restore Princess Vlei after years of neglect by authorities, with plans that include setting up a Khoisan Village to teach people more about the indigenous culture, an outdoor market, an eco-friendly park for children, and hiking trails.
Recently, we have been encouraged by certain comments suggesting that the City may be reconsidering whether to go ahead with the sale of the land at Princess Vlei to the developer.
In a radio interview on the Voice of the Cape Breakfast Show on 7 January, Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson said, “We are concerned about the decision taken 15 years ago, circumstances have changed, people’s views on what Princess Vlei should be have changed and we believe we have to explore different options now, we can’t simply proceed without full exploration.”
In an article in the Weekend Argus (January 12 2014), Ald. Nielson further said, “I will admit we have been fairly quiet on this matter, but I think now is the time to engage on a broader scale”.
We are delighted to hear that the City is considering alternatives, and again invite the City to consider the vision we have developed for Princess Vlei. This vision has emerged over years of consultation with the community and other relevant role players. The Princess Vlei Mall debacle arose through lack of consultation with the community and through a short-sighted appraisal of a valuable natural feature and heritage site. We trust that any further consideration of what should be done at Princess Vlei will be transparent and fully consultative with all interested and affected parties.
Up to now, the matter has been shrouded in mystery. For the past two years, our efforts to engage first with MEC Bredell (when he was still relevant) and later with the City have been met with little enthusiasm. Initially they were just ignored. In 2012, after the City declined to address our concerns, a complaint of fraud was laid with the Hawks against two of the developers by Kelvin Cochrane. The City then claimed that they could not engage with us because of this complaint, notwithstanding that the matter is not Sub Judice, Princess Vlei Forum is not the complainant, and the only parties actually implicated by the Hawks investigation are the developers.
This investigation has been cited as a reason to deny us a meeting with the Mayor; deny us the opportunity to present our vision for Princess Vlei to the relevant subcouncils; and deny our project recognition by the World Design Capital. It is unclear as to why the Hawks investigation precludes any discussion with or representation by Princess Vlei Forum, but does not inhibit ongoing negotiation with the developers who are the subject of the investigation – Ald. Nielson has made it clear that these negotiations continue.
It is also unclear who is party to these negotiations. The original company that was party to the agreements, Insight Property Developers Cape (1991/001666/07) was deregistered in 2010. We are confused as to why a different company should be able to lay claim to any agreements that were made with the original company.
This matter has dragged on for fifteen years, during which time the City has done little to manage or maintain the area - most improvements have been effected by volunteers. We urge the Mayoral Committee to come to a swift resolution on this matter, lay to rest the spectre of the mall development for once and for all, and work with us and other community partners to transform this site into a heritage park we can all delight in.
In both the Argus article and the Voice of the Cape article, Ald. Nielsen mentioned that the developers in question had spent “millions”. We would like to know what exactly the millions were spent on, and which company spent them.
We would also like to point out that the value of what would be lost should Princess Vlei be destroyed would greatly out-weigh the one or two million the developer spent. For example, the floods in Cape Town last year displaced several thousand residents, and, according to the Mayor as quoted in the Cape Times, cost the City over R3 million. Expert predictions suggest that with global warming such extreme weather occurrences will increase in the future. By compromising natural water systems which can mitigate against flooding, such as Princess Vlei, the City may be considerably increasing it’s own disaster management expenses. This is not even considering the heritage value and biodiversity value.