Proposed development threatens farmlands

About 2 000 people are employed in the PHA, mostly from surrounding communities.

The farmlands of Philippi are Cape Town’s breadbasket, but they’re threatened by plans to plaster a big chunk of them in concrete.

So says Nazeer Sonday, who has been running public tours of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) over the past month to draw attention to the importance of the land, which he says supplies 80% of the city’s vegetables – about 200 000 tons a year.

The Cape Flats aquifer also lies under the PHA, supplying water to the farmlands.

Mr Sonday is chairman of the PHA Food and Farming Campaign, which he launched in 2012 to oppose development in the area.

He said about 500 people from all over the city had been on the tours so far.

“All kinds of people came in from Constantia, Durbanville, Khayelitsha, everywhere. We’re scheduling more tours some time in May because of the good turnout.”

According to him, the 3 000 hectares of farmland employ more than 6 000 people with potential to create jobs for double that number.

And the PHA’s proximity to the city, makes it easier for farmers to get their produce to local suppliers and hawkers.

Mr Sonday criticised the plans approved by the City and Province to develop 11 000 hectares of arable land. He said they were motivated by short-term goals.

Plans for a shopping centre, 30 000 houses, a private school and industrial area were under way, Mr Sonday said.

Food security and jobs would be threatened should the development go ahead, he said.

The PHA Food and Farming Campaign is in a legal battle with the City and Province over the development plan.

“We have one junior advocate on a contingency plan while the City has hired six senior advocates with our tax money to fight us.” said Mr Sonday.

The City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt, said: “The PHA Food and Farming Campaign has launched litigation in the Western Cape High Court to review and set aside some of the decisions taken by the provincial government, as well as the City of Cape Town. The City’s legal team has filed its answering affidavit and given that the matter is before the court we will not comment until such time as the matter has been concluded.”

Mr Sonday said the PHA Food and Farming Campaign was trying to find a senior advocate willing to represent them pro bono because they could not afford the legal fees.