DA hits out at Cape Town's draft land policy

The City of Cape Town's mayoral committee has approved a policy - behind closed doors - that would allow a black, disabled woman to buy council land even if a white man doubles her price.

The policy is one of several proposed point systems for selling council land that are being advertised for public comment.

Under the system adopted in May, a maximum of 50 points are allocated for price and 50 for "economic empowerment" criteria - previously disadvantaged, a woman or disabled.

A Claremont property in Dunluce Avenue, two properties in Princess Path in Pinelands and five in Venter Street, Mandalay, are out for tender under the new system.

Ruby Gelderbloem, director of property management for the city, said no properties had been sold under the new policy yet.

The council is to discuss the proposed sale of the five Mandalay properties on Wednesday.

But a heated political dispute is brewing over the legality of the May decision.

Belinda Walker, Democratic Alliance city councillor for Bo-Kaap, Gardens, Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof and Vredehoek, said she was "horrified at the secrecy in which the decision was made and the illegality of the whole process".

The Financial Management Act says that a municipality may sell land only after it has weighed up the market, economic and community values of the land and has decided - in a meeting open to the public - that it is not needed to provide basic municipal services.

Also, the city's by-law states that immovable property should not be let or sold below market value unless permission is granted.

"No such permission has been obtained," Walker said.

In response, Gelderbloem said that the May decision was legal as it was a "policy decision", and would apply until the draft policy had been finalised.

In October 2003, the council gave the mayor and the mayoral committee powers to determine policy.

Mike Marsden, director of land and infrastructure for the city, said that the draft policy "hoped to right the huge imbalances of the past and bring about social stability and economic prospects for previously disadvantaged people".

"Previously disadvantaged groups are simply not going to get the land otherwise," said Gelderbloem.

Walker said: "We're not against black economic empowerment.

"That's not the point here. The formula appears to be illegal and, if not illegal, manifestly inequitable."

A reliable source had told her that properties in Kirstenhof, Lakeside and Fish Hoek were being sold according to the new point system, she said. The council denied this.

The draft policy has several categories describing criteria for selling land by tender.

In the category for land with high possible financial spinoffs, 35 points are given for price, a maximum of 25 for being previously disadvantaged, 10 for creating jobs and other "empowerment" measures and 30 for the "development concept".

In a category for first-time home owners, 15 points are given for being a first-time home owner.

It is believed that there are about 60 000 portions of council land in the city, of which fewer than 10 percent are appropriate for development.

An announcement about the draft policy was published in the Cape Times on November 12.

The advertisement listed the criteria to be used in selling council land, but did not give their weightings.

This article was originally published on page 3 of Cape Times on December 08, 2004
Article by: Jo-Anne Smetherham - www.iol.co.za