The dilemma of the planned development of the Philippi Horticultural Area rests on the irony of the PHA Food & Farming area which produces about 80% of Cape Town’s fresh vegetables, and being situated in an informal and violently notorious township.
Philippi is one of the largest underdeveloped townships in Cape Town, with a political history dating back to the nineteenth century. Residents from Transkei and Ciskei, who escaped from the apartheid disputes in their homelands, sought refuge here, in what was then a grazing land. Over the years Philippi grew to be one of the largest farming industrial nodes of the Mother City.
With the wetlands being home to over 98 species of birds, livestock and flower farms and an aquifer supplying 30% of fresh water to residents, Most importantly, the production of about 100 000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables annually, highlights how crucial this area is for both food security and the economy of this province and country.
The problem fired up when the City’s planning and Building Management Department attempted to sell land from the Philippi Horticultural Area, for the development of informal settlements. In 2015, the privately owned Oakland City Development was proposed on 472 hectares, while the U-Vest developers would take up 280 hectares to construct housing and industrial developments.
Residents are however not convinced that the development is for their benefit. According to Nazeer Sonday, a farmer in Philippi, they have seen academics, spoken to local farmers and formed their own opinion because they live in the area. They have spoken to food security experts and put out 42 pages of comments and 17 appendices to support their argument. They have just one question, the City ‘why does the City want to rezone the area for housing.’ The City says that it is for the people living in shacks in Philippi who need housing, but actually it’s not for them, its middle-class housing for which you need to have a bond.
The community together with the Food and Farming campaign has strongly opposed these plans, as they believe the development will adversely affect a portion the most fertile farming area and dry out the wetlands used for irrigation. Philippi’s community makes its living through selling a third of their products to small wholesalers and the biggest retailers such as Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay. The farms are also vital to the underprivileged residents, since they buy vegetables at a low cost and don’t have to travel long distances to put a meal on their tables. This, I believe is reason enough for the residents to fight and protect their main resource of income and survival.
This seems to be another case of ‘the road to destruction being paved with good intention’, as the City also has the Philippi community’s best interest at heart, by attempting to provide sufficient housing and industrial growth. Keeping to its promise to provide services for its residents as the City noted in the 2012 spatial committee report that “The area does, however, have significant management challenges and urbanisation pressures, most notably competing land demands for housing. Given the nature of the central location of the PHA and the housing need in Cape Town, the PHA is under significant pressure to be developed for residential purposes”. But also needs to balance Philippi horticultural area with food security.