Cape Town allows disputed golf course to continue operating, with conditions

Cape Town has renewed the controversial 10-year lease for the Rondebosch Golf Club in principle, increasing its annual tariff tenfold.

The city of Cape Town has renewed the 10-year lease for the Rondebosch golf course, but has introduced a two-year cancellation clause to allow easy access to the property in case it considers different use of the land.
Image: Gallo Images

The city has also introduced a two-year cancellation clause to allow easy access to the property in case it considers different use of the land.

In a statement, the city’s mayoral committee said the in principle approval will be placed on the city council’s agenda for October 29.

“The current lessee is a registered not-for-profit organisation and will be responsible for the estimated R6m annual maintenance and security cost of the property, aside from the R10,000 per annum golf tariff applicable to all courses on city land for the 2020/21 financial year,” the city said.

In January, when the city sought approval from the council to extend the golf course lease by another decade, the activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi accused the city of “subsidising the wealthy elite” by charging a very low rental fee for the land.

The golf course was also the centre of housing protests in March last year, when members of Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi occupied the course, demanding the land be used for social housing.

The city has previously used a flat tariff of R920 a year for leasing out public land for sports and recreational purposes.

‘Golf clubs prioritised over social housing’

Ndifuna Ukwazi researcher Michael Clark accused the city of continuing to “subsidise the wealthy elite at the cost of working class people” by prioritising golf clubs over social housing.

The group released a report in March 2019 titled “City Leases: Cape Town’s Failure to Redistribute Land”. The report accused the city of using public land in upmarket areas in an “inefficient, exclusive and unsustainable manner” by prioritising cheap leases for “under-utilised” golf courses and bowling greens, instead of affordable housing projects.

Responding to the criticism, Mayco member for economic opportunities and asset management James Vos said the city was reviewing its historic one size fits all social tariff approach.

The city said its spatial planning and environment and human settlement directorates have confirmed the golf course is not suitable for housing purposes at this point. The two-year cancellation clause built into the lease agreement would be used “should this position change”.

The city said the golf course played an important role in managing water pollution in the Black River ecosystem.

The course is situated within a high flood line or wetland and therefore prone to flooding, and is designed to “provide a holding area for the on-site storage of flood waters to prevent flooding of the adjacent area”.

The city said: “While the Rondebosch site has severe development constraints, lease renewals for golf courses on city-owned land should not be confused with a final decision on whether future housing would be built on a property, which is a separate legislative process entirely.”

It said its draft human settlements strategy, which is out for public comment until November 30, “is clear that all municipal land is being assessed for its human settlements potential, including golf courses”.

Rondebosch Golf Club played a meaningful role in the Cape Town golfing community, with a diverse membership and successful youth development programme, the city noted.

“The club’s community benefits include a multi-use facility and publicly accessible parkland while contributing to employment, all at no cost to the city. Charity golf events are a regular fixture at the club, with no charge for use of the venue.”

TimesLIVE

TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)

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