MEC Donald Grant on unlawful occupation of Helen Bowden site
Continued unlawful occupation of Helen Bowden site may hinder development of social housing
14 March 2018
Today, the Department of Transport and Public Works began the process of notifying each of the occupants of the Helen Bowden Nurses Home site - part of the Somerset Precint and close to the V&A Waterfront - that we wish to engage with them in order to bring to an end their current unlawful occupation of the site. It is currently being unlawfully occupied by supporters of the group “Reclaim the City”.
The unlawful occupation was encouraged by Ndifuna Ukwazi and began almost a year ago. It has consistently been opposed by the Western Cape Government (WCG).
Since the unlawful occupation, violent outbreaks have erupted on the site from time to time, which have also resulted in vandalism and the destruction of property.
In our attempts to secure the site to date, the WCG has been forced to contract additional security for the site at a cost of close to R3 million a month. In this current financial year alone, the WCG has spent over R35 million on securing this property against continued invasions, vandalism, and theft.
In our letters, the Department of Transport and Public Works makes it clear that the continued unlawful occupation of the site is likely to hinder the planned development on the Helen Bowden site that will see the erection of 302 social housing units (as part of a larger development), once the City gives us it's go ahead.
This, along with other similar initiatives also underway, is aimed at using this site in an effective way so as to maximize economic benefit of this asset and at the same time address the need for social housing in the Metropolitan area.
The province has also committed to optimising the development of further social housing on the remaining portions of the Somerset Precinct, within a mixed-use cross-subsidisation model, as and when these sites become available for development.
For redevelopment of this site to occur, it is essential that the owner, developer, and any social-housing institution with whom the WCG partners, obtain vacant occupation of the property. The timeous vacation of the property by all the current occupants is therefore essential to the successful redevelopment thereof, including the provision of social housing units.
In the letter (a copy of the letter is available upon request), the Department of Transport and Public Works has requested that the unlawful occupants provide us with information that will assist us in facilitating their vacation of the property in a negotiated, transparent, and orderly manner.
It is my sincere hope that all the unlawful occupants will work with us to ensure that the vacation of the property occurs timeously. “Reclaim the City” has long purported to be advocates for social housing; we hope that they will therefore do all they can to assist us in ensuring that we are able to proceed with the redevelopment of the Helen Bowden site that will see the erection of 302 social housing units thereon as soon as possible.
Statement issued by Siphesihle Dube, Spokesperson for the MEC of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, 14 March 2018