Housing activists to keep watch on golf estate lease as they push for social housing

King David Mowbray golf estate has signed a new lease. Picture: Website

King David Mowbray golf estate has signed a new lease. Picture: Website

Published Apr 21, 2024


Cape Town - The battle between the need for social housing and recreational land owned has faced a setback after the City signed a 10-year lease agreement with the King David Mowbray Golf Estate, keeping the land as a golf course.

A concession in the lease agreement allows for a two-year cancellation period to make recommendations for much-needed social housing.

Social housing activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi has been advocating for affordable housing in well-located urban spaces.

The King David Mowbray Golf Estate has become one of the group's vocal points. It has 49.5 hectares, which is equal to the size of a small suburb or 49 rugby fields.

Yusrah Bardien, of Ndifuna Ukwazi, said the site had the potential to change many lives. “It could be used to transform the lives of hundreds of families while providing genuine public space and a range of amenities that do not require exorbitant membership fees to access.”

This week, Carl Pophaim, mayco member for human settlements, confirmed a new lease agreement had been signed with the golf estate but that a two-year cancellation clause could give way to mixed-use development.

“The council, on March 27, approved the 10-year renewal of the King David Mowbray golf club lease following the public participation process,” said Pophaim.

“The lease time frame, and importantly the introduction of a new twoyear cancellation clause, follows the City identifying the site, or portions thereof, for mixed-use development in a pre-feasibility study.”

Pophaim said the proposed lease period and cancellation clause enables secure use of the site and saves costs while the City plans for substantial infrastructure upgrades to enable future mixed-use development.

He said this included road network improvements, electrical and waste-water treatment infrastructure and investigations into the feasibility of social housing.

Pophaim said that while housing activists were rallying for the land, social housing spaces were ongoing.

“Last year, the City made significant progress and released land for more than 2 200 social housing units across seven land parcels. Thousands of new opportunities are in the pipeline,” he said.

“The City is aiming in future to become more of an enabler of opportunities than the sole provider and programmes must be based on greater partnerships and more land parcels must be unlocked for human settlements. This includes the large pieces of well-located national government land.”

Pophaim said the City estimates that 100 000 social housing opportunities are possible at sites such as Wingfield, Youngsfield, Ysterplaat and the Parliamentary village.

“The release of these national mega-properties for housing would make a huge difference given the sheer scale of the well-located military land compared to the very limited land with housing potential owned by the City and the Western Cape government close to the urban centres.

“Importantly, the City has made available 32 666m2 for social housing in the past five years,” he added.

He said the City had been intentional in its spatial development frameworks about the future use and development of the golf course in line with the strategic intent of the administration.

“The cancellation clause is therefore a technical action that allows alignment with pre-feasibility work on the desired usage of the site,” he said.

“These decisions by the City will be claimed by various individuals or entities as their success. This is the case with many of our programmes.”

Bardien said they would be keeping watch on the City's plans.

“Will this become another project that exists on paper but never in reality?” she asked.

“Will feasibility and preparatory work be dragged out for more than a decade, as is sadly so often the case?

“Will affordable housing be properly prioritised in the project so that as many people as possible can benefit? We will be watching closely.”

Nick Budlender, researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, explained the history of the golf course.

“It used to just be the Mowbray Golf Course, but then it amalgamated with the King David Golf Course (which was near the airport) because King David had to close.

“It was first built in 1910, partially as a racial buffer zone between different neighbourhoods,” he said.

“In 2019, Ndifuna Ukwazi published this report looking at leased land in the city which would rather be used for affordable housing. It explained our arguments.

“One of the sites we targeted for redevelopment was Rondebosch Golf Course, which is directly opposite Mowbray Golf Course and which was also rented out by the City.

“Along with social movement partners, we held various protests at the golf course to highlight that it makes no sense to rent out a large, strategic piece of public land with the potential to house hundreds of families in the middle of a severe housing crisis.

“Our report included a development proposal for Rondebosch Golf Course and many other sites, and we demonstrated conclusively that the site could not continue to be used in such an inefficient, unjust and unsustainable manner.”

He added the City has committed several times to rationalising the golf course and developing Mowbray to include affordable housing and a range of other uses.

Darrell Williams, the general manager of the King David Mowbray Golf Estate, said they would not be commenting on the housing activists requests to the City: “At this stage we will reserve our comment.”

Weekend Argus approached Daphne Sole, of King David Mowbray Development programme's Golf For All, for comment. It runs golf training programme for children. She did not respond to calls, WhatsApp or emails.

Weekend Argus