An email sent to Jews in Cape Town urges them not to participate in a public meeting to discuss the future of the controversial Tafelberg property.
Tafelberg is the site of an old school. It is currently owned by the Western Cape government.
The Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School (PJJDS) wishes to build a school on Tafelberg, while activist groups Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City want it to be used for affordable housing. The province is currently deciding the future of the property.
In November it released a financial model that includes affordable housing. It has asked the public to comment on this by 30 January.
Ndifuna Ukwazi has called for a public meeting on Thursday night to discuss the future of the Tafelberg property.
On Wednesday afternoon Samuel Seeff, who heads Seeff Properties and who is also the chair of an organisation called the Western Province Priorities and Planning Board, together with Lance Katz, vice-chair of the PJJDS, sent a widely circulated email to Jews in Cape Town.
The letter states “Whilst it is not our place to stop any member of our community from attending NU’s public meeting …” and then proceeds to discourage members of the Jewish community from attending the meeting.
It states: “The Cape Town Jewish Community has a firm economic and legal interest in the Tafelberg Property through the PJJDS and by virtue of PJJDS having legally won the tender by Province for purchase of the Tafelberg property.”
Further on the letter says: “It would therefore be inappropriate for any other member of the community or community organisation to engage with NU on this matter in anything other than their personal capacity.”
“Please be aware that any engagement on your part (even in a personal capacity and however well-intentioned) may be detrimental to the community’s interest given the sensitive nature of this matter at this time.”
In response to the email Doron Isaacs, a social justice activist who is on the Ndifuna Ukwazi board and a member of the Jewish community, told GroundUp by email:
“Men who are not elected by the Jewish community, but presuming to speak for the Jewish community, have encouraged all Jews in Cape Town to avoid engaging ‘even in a personal capacity’ with those campaigning for an accessible, mixed-used housing development in Sea Point. This is truly shameful.
They know that most Jewish people would be deeply touched by the stories of working class black families hoping for housing closer to their jobs in Sea Point. They don’t want Jews to hear these stories, but rather to close ranks behind narrow self-interest. This kind of leadership hurts the Jewish community and hurts Cape Town as a whole.”
Jared Rossouw, co-director of Ndifuna Ukwazi, told GroundUp: “The Mayor said this week that there has not been enough progress redressing the apartheid spatial planning that divides our city. Well located public land like Tafelberg should not be sold when it can be used to help deliver services to poor and working class people in Cape Town.
The study released by the provincial government demonstrates that 270 social housing units are not only possible but are affordable on the site, including space for shops and a community facility like a school in the existing building.”
He further said: “The public meeting on Thursday night is intended to provide more information on the feasibility study and on social housing from a panel of experts. We all have a stake in building an inclusive, equitable and just city. This is an important decision before the government which could possibly pave the way for the first social housing built in the inner city since apartheid.
We think it’s important that the public gets an opportunity to engage with the issues and we want to facilitate meaningful dialogue. Everybody who lives in Sea Point is very welcome.”
Article originally published by GroundUp.