Press Release 5 October 2012
The Princess Vlei Forum would like to respond to MEC Anton Bredell’s statement (quoted by Peter Luhanga in the West Cape News, 30/09/12) that the City “made a mistake” when it approved the shopping mall development on Princess Vlei in 2002 .
We would firstly like to hail this acknowledgement as a victory for democracy. We are confident that it is only the unflagging determination by concerned citizens to protect this valuable heritage has persuaded the Minister to acknowledge this error of judgement. We trust that this is the first step in reversing the decision to support the mall development bid.
However, we do have a number of queries and concerns:
We would like to note that members of the City Council have consistently expressed unhappiness with this development bid, as demonstrated by SPELUM’s refusal to extend the rezoning. SPELUM made this call after reviewing the bid in the light of evidence brought by concerned residents, which highlighted the rich cultural, historical and environmental value of Princess Vlei.
SPELUM’s response was an instance of local government doing its job: ie. taking into account the views of the public and making a decision for the greater good. It is most regrettable that this decision was then overturned by MEC Bredell. We hope that the recent decision by Mayor De Lille to limit the powers of SPELUM it is not an indication that the local government will be less transparent, responsive and accountable on planning decisions in the future.
We believe that the gains made by the campaign to save Princess Vlei, and the irregularities uncovered by Cochrane, demonstrate the need for and power of a vigorous civil society to monitor the decisions of our public officials, ensure that they are responsive to the needs of our citizens, and ensure that they are fully transparent and accountable as they so often claim to be.
We eagerly await a full and thorough investigation of these irregularities and trust that the City Council will be more transparent and accountable in its dealing of this matter than has been the case up to now.
The Princess Vlei Forum, and the rehabilitation project Dressing the Princess, have enjoyed a collaborative relationship with relevant branches of Local Government, in particular in the Biodiversity Management Branch and Parks and Forestry. We are confident that the development bid will be defeated, and look forward to continuing this partnership to develop Princess Vlei in a culturally and environmentally appropriate and sensitive manner.