27 February 2018
The affordable housing proposal in the qualifying bid for the multi-billion rand development of Cape Town’s Foreshore reproduces apartheid spatial planning, according to the City’s Transport and Urban Development (TDA) commissioner Melissa Whitehead
This was one of the reasons why Whitehead, who was on the initial Bid Evaluation Committee, was adamantly opposed to the development, she claims. Whitehead has since been suspended.
Her position is contained in her report to a special confidential council meeting on 5 December, setting out why she should not be placed on precautionary suspension following accusations of mismanagement and abuse of power by executive director in the directorate of the mayor, Craig Kesson, and former director of urban catalytic investments Frank Cumming.
The qualifying proposal by Mitchell Du Plessis and Associates (MDA) contains plans for 11 tower blocks along Nelson Mandela Boulevard, with 3,200 market-related units. Ten buildings clustered at the northern-most edge of the Foreshore, beneath the freeways and hard-up against the docks, are proposed for the provision of 450 affordable housing units.
Whitehead states that an MDA representative, questioned on the affordable housing during a presentation to the committee, replied: “There are many people all over the world who live in ghettos under highways. Is it not better to live in a ghetto under the highway than to live in Khayelitsha?”
This, states Whitehead, was “forwarding the principles of apartheid” and she would “go all the way to the Constitutional Court” to oppose it.
She says in her report that she favoured Proposal B, which suggested a gigantic circular building at the Foreshore which would dwarf all other urban structures. Proposal B is believed to have been submitted by Urban Dynamics, a design consortium.
The other four bids did not meet the criteria, Whitehead said.
Following a report on the process compiled by consulting firm Moore Stephens presented to City Manager Achmat Ebrahim on 31 August, and a grievance lodged against Whitehead by Cumming, Ebrahim dissolved the Bid Evaluation Committee and set up a new one.
In the resultant furore, Mayor Patricia de Lille told Kesson to make the Moore Stephens report “go away”, according to an affidavit filed by Kesson which makes serious allegations against Whitehead, Ebrahim and De Lille.
In the Moore Stephens report and in a grievance filed by Cumming, Whitehead is accused of political interference in the bid evaluation process. According to Kesson’s affidavit, Cumming said she “regularly expressed concern regarding the ‘political acceptability’ of the location of the affordable housing”.
This, Cumming states, eroded the integrity of the bid evaluation process which was supposed to focus only on the technical aspects of the bids.
Whitehead counters that her statements about political acceptability were taken out of context.
In the fallout from the Moore Stephens report, Kesson’s affidavit and Cumming’s grievance, among others, Whitehead has been suspended, Ebrahim resigned on the day he was due to put forward his reasons for not being suspended, de Lille faced a motion of no confidence (which she survived by one vote), and Cumming was dismissed.
The chair of the Bid Evaluation Committee, Paul Vink, declined to supply the names of the original committee or the new committee members, as he said the bid process was still in process. But the members of the initial committee are named in Whitehead’s report.
They were: Whitehead; Cumming; Marais; TDA investment specialist Tony Viera; and Maureen Whare and Belinda Khun from the City’s Supply Chain Management.
Asked if he found the location of affordable housing in the qualifying bid acceptable, Mayco Member for Transport and Urban Development, Brett Herron, said he could not comment on the merits of the proposal until the supply chain management process had been finalised.
“At this stage all I can say is that I was thrilled by the number and diversity of proposals we received. This showed that the market has a big interest in partnering with the City in this way, and it also demonstrates that private developer contributions to public infrastructure and services can be viable,” said Herron.
In an initial press release announcing the qualifying bidder, Herron stated he was “proud and excited to be part of this endeavour”. He also said that reversing the legacy of apartheid spatial planning was “a key priority of this government”.