Princess Vlei on Etv

I was interviewed by an Etv news journalist about the campaign to save Princess Vlei from a shopping mall development, and the bid to have plans for a People’s Park on the vlei recognised as a World Design Capital project in 2014. There’s a short article and a video on the ENCA website at the link below:

Dispute halts World Design Capital event
Tuesday 7 January 2014 – 8:17am by Roderick MacLeod

CAPE TOWN – A small vlei on the Cape Flats is again at the centre of controversy.

Developers have been trying in vain for the past 15 years to build a shopping centre on the wetlands.

That dispute has now created another problem… It’s put a project for the prestigious World Design Capital event at risk…

Public housing

I wrote a letter to the Cape Times in response to an article by Allister Sparks on the issue of housing in South Africa – unfortunately the Cape Times online is behind a pay wall, but here is my letter, published on Friday 22 November 2013.

ALLISTER SPARKS suggests that the DA should, in all provinces and municipalities that it controls, “hand over state land to those who work it in rural areas, and to those who live on it in urban areas.

“They, the people, shall be made the owners of those properties and shall be provided with the title deeds attesting to their legal ownership” (“Politics is not ideological purity,” Cape Times Insight, November 20).

The problem with this suggestion is that we, the people, should already be regarded as the owners of state land.

What Sparks is suggesting is transferring public property into individual ownership. This chimes with Patricia de Lille’s own views on private ownership. Also in the Cape Times, on October 30, she writes of her belief that “there is arguably no single intervention that holds the greater prospect of changing the lived reality of poor and marginalised citizens than the provision of ownership”.

But giving people security and a stake in their living places does not have to mean literally owning the title deeds to land or a house. The state could provide security of tenure, services and infrastructure, to land that remains publicly owned.

In that way the broader public, both now and in the future, can retain land and housing as public, preserving these resources from commercial exploitation and speculation for people that may need them and not have the means (or desire) to buy them.

In Britain in 1979, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher introduced the “Right to Buy” scheme, by which people living in social housing could buy their state-owned house.

This was popular with the public, speaking to people’s aspirations to home ownership, as I’m sure De Lille’s statements do now.

But the result is that today there is a crisis in the availability of social housing in Britain, with a growing waiting list.

In 2009 Caroline Davey, head of the charity Shelter, was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying “millions of homes have been taken out of the social sector without being replaced and two million households languish on waiting lists, more than one million children live in overcrowded housing and tens of thousands are trapped in temporary accommodation”.

There is value in keeping (and making) resources, including both land and housing, public, not privatising them.

We need to keep this longer term view in mind rather than rushing to dispose of publicly-owned assets that may never be recovered; and we need to explore alternative ways of helping people feel secure in their homes and in their stake in society, than solely through private ownership.

Ralph Borland

District Six on the Fringe

District 6 on the Fringe

The District Six Homecoming Centre, while we were still setting up. By the time we started it was standing room only – thanks everyone who attended!

The PublicCulture CityLab at the African Centre for Cities hosted a public event last Wednesday night with the District Six Museum, titled ‘District Six on the Fringe: The absence of memory in design-led urban regeneration‘. A series of presentations, followed by Q + A with the audience, looked at issues around the development of the East City as the ‘The Fringe Innovation District‘. My colleague at the ACC, Ismail Farouk, and the District Six Museum delivered the keynote addresses, and I chaired the event. Opening presentations were made by the artist Andrew Putter and visiting Cologne International School of Design student Kai Berthold.

From our invitation to the event:

The area designated as ‘The Fringe’ is intertwined with District Six and yet that history of the space, with its memory of forced removals, has not figured significantly in the ‘cultural regeneration’ plans for the East City. What place is there for memory and history within culture-led urban development? What risk is there that contemporary stylizations of Cape Town might serve to obliterate local histories and entrench the status quo? What of District Six, not only as symbol and museum, but as marker of the pasts that haunt the present?

The event was informed in part by a public document authored by the District Six Museum as a critique of the Fringe Innovation District draft framework, which they spoke to on the night, and you can download here: The Fringe: Draft Framework – District Six Museum comments 4 March 2013. The text of Ismail Farouk’s presentation can be downloaded here: Conflicting rationalities – Post-apartheid spatial legacies and the Creative City.

This is the full programme of speakers and presentations on the night:

Kai Berthold  Exploring gentrification in cities around the world

Kai Berthold is a visiting student from Koln International School of Design (KISD) in Germany. He is part of a project called The Gentrification Relay that worked with Cape Town students to investigate and address issues around gentrification and the East City.

Andrew Putter Harrington Square for the neighbourhood

The artist Andrew Putter is working for the Cape Town Partnership to facilitate the public involvement in the unfolding of Harrington Square as a public place.

Bonita Bennett  District Six Museum Statement: Erasure of memory in the remaking of the East City

The District Six Museum as a cultural institution promotes innovative curatorial practices in addressing issues of memory and dislocation. In considering the place-making strategies for developing the East City, what place is there for understanding the politics of erasure?

Ismail Farouk Conflicting rationalities: Post-apartheid spatial legacies and the Creative City

Ismail Farouk presents some of the results of his long-term investigation into understanding the precinct development in the East City. His work explores the tensions and challenges in redressing historical inequalities in Cape Town through ‘design’.

(UPDATE 17/6/2013 – an article about the event on Africa is a Country)