Historic racist spatial planning remains a human rights crime that has protracted adverse outcomes.

A possible response could involve building high-rise buildings near the Central Business District (CBD) of Cape Town and inhabiting the buildings with historically deprived folk. While this seems exciting, it may not be practical as social engineering without proper planning, leads to bigger problems.

The derelict and crime infested state owned building in Darling street in the CBD is an example of ineptitude. The inability of government to complete the District 6 project after 24 years is another example of failure. The many problem-buildings and land holdings of the diverse spheres of state, infers that the state is unable to manage tower block urban projects.

Likewise, decades ago, in the USA, poor blacks migrated to the city of Detroit to work in the motor industry. This mass migration created “white flight” as whites relocated to outlying Detroit. Public services in central Detroit decayed as the rates base declined. Due to income disparity, blacks struggled or were unwilling to pay for services and upkeep of public infrastructure etc. Parts of Detroit remains derelict to date and the city made global history when it declared bankruptcy.

There is constant talk about housing poor people inside Cape Town. While this seems noble, nobody explains, how this will impact municipal income as poor people cannot rent or buy in the city at current prices and rates. The reality is that rental in the CBD is costly because maintenance and rates are expensive. Since the city is struggling to build mass housing on the periphery where costs are much cheaper, can building or renewing city buildings, for a few poor people, be fiscally justifiable?

Also, should municipalities own and manage city buildings, then rental must be market related and housing not be sold. Income generated will alleviate rates increases on the suffering middle class, since the poor who receive free housing on the periphery of the city, do not pay rates.

The situation in Maitland is a good example of what not to do. For years, Council gave land to developers at reduced rates to build homes for first-time homeowners. Soon afterwards the many owners moved and rented the housing to foreigners at market rental. Thus municipal land was in reality used to benefit a few folk and not used to house desperate locals. Those who bought did so purely to profit whilst the majority who needed housing near the CBD remain in townships shacks.

Talking about racist spatial planning is useless, when realistic action is required. The poor must receive opportunity to improve their conditions but not at the infinite expense of a few ratepayers.

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress