The Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) took on the city of Cape Town today on the second day of a high court battle to prevent development of more than 1,000ha of agricultural land responsible for producing 200,000 tons of vegetable products each year.
The area is set to be converted into the Oakland City mixed-use development by land developer Wentzel Oaker.
The Philippi Horticultural Area has been campaigning against the proposal for more than a decade, after the city outlined its intentions to rezone the area in 2009. The Philippi Horticultural Area maintains that the land is the primary recharge zone for the Cape Flats aquifer and indirectly provides some 30,000 jobs.
The group’s leader Nazeer Sonday, said that should they lose the case, the effects would be felt far and wide because it will mean that a great deal of the land used for farming will become unusable.
Protesters said the effect the move could have on the environment was down to “lawless politicians”.
Representing the city, advocate Ron Paschke said that the city had the best interest of the environment at heart, and would block any plans that threatened the ecology of the area or threatened to pollute the water resource.
Paschke stated that the city has the power to dismiss any planning applications that threaten the aquifer.
He further diminished the Philippi Horticultural Area’s complaint by suggesting that the land in question has not been used for farming for decades, and said that independent reports revealed that the land was “of poor quality for farming”, a concession repeated by the PHA.
Philippi Horticultural Area advocates charged that the city had not taken socio-economic factors into account when considering the move.
They said it is not purely about farming,the entire argument from the City is based on this erroneous notion that the land can only be used for farming.
They charged that the land could also be used to facilitate housing schemes for people who desperately need it, from lower to middle class backgrounds.
Judge Kate Savage will hear more testimony from the city on Thursday.