READ PDF PRESS STATEMENT HERE: 29 Mar 2023 Military Land Press statement
Weak intergovernmental collaboration and a lack of urgency are entrenching the
housing crisis. The national government owns enough vacant and underutilised
land in Cape Town to deliver hundreds of thousands of homes and materially
reduce the housing backlog. For instance, a joint civil society submission to the
the presidency, building on decades of activism from a diverse range of groups, has
demonstrated that 67,000 homes could be built on the Ysterplaat, Wingfield and
Youngsfield Military Bases alone. Instead, what initially looked like encouraging
progress on the release of underutilised public land for affordable housing over
the last few years has seemingly been hamstrung by the failure of different
government departments and entities to work together.
Patricia De Lille regarding the release of state-owned land for human settlements.
During the briefing, Minister De Lille indicated that the DPWI identified 76 land
parcels measuring 13 185 hectares that were available for release to the Housing
Development Agency (HDA). A copy of Minister De Lille’s brief to our organisations
is annexed to this statement.
briefing. In June 2022, at a Select Committee Meeting, Minister De Lille explained
that 2,257 hectares of public land have been released across South Africa by the
Department of Public Works to the HDA. The HDA is a national public sector
development agency that bears significant responsibility for acquiring and
preparing land, as well as developing affordable homes. Unfortunately, there has
been no meaningful update on when and how these 2,257 hectares (roughly 2,257
rugby fields) will be developed, and the minimal information which is publicly
available suggests that progress has been limited.
Public Works to release an additional 10,928 hectares of land for housing
development, the HDA has failed to provide the supporting documents that are
necessary for this land disposal process to move forward. It is hard to imagine that
there is any other current work at the HDA that could have a greater impact on
addressing the housing crisis in Cape Town, and it is appalling that this issue has
not been resolved several years after it was initially raised. When viewed in
combination with the fact that the HDA does not seem to have made progress on
land that has actually been released to it, questions need to be raised about the
effectiveness and purpose of the institution.
Perhaps the most shocking failure of intergovernmental collaboration in this
regard is that 668 hectares of high-potential land in Cape Town are sitting largely
vacant and underutilised under the custodianship of the Department of Defence.
If they were developed instead of sitting practically empty, these sites would have
a major impact on Cape Town’s housing and segregation crises. The Department
of Defence argues that it still needs the entirety of Youngsfield Military Base,
Wingfield Military Base and the Ysterplaat Airforce Base for its own operations.
This is a bold claim, as anyone who has ever driven past or visited these sites will
tell you. Much of the land on which these sites sit was granted to the military by
the Graaf Trust around the second and first world wars during a period when
almost no consideration was given to the housing needs of the majority. We now
live in a democracy. Quite simply, having four military bases sprawled across
desperately needed public land in the centre of Cape Town in the midst of a major
housing crisis makes no sense at all. If there was genuine commitment and
urgency that matched the scale and intensity of our housing crisis, different
government departments would come together and develop a solution that puts
the land to better use.
instance, it seems that, following a request from the Department of Public Works,
the Department of Defence has agreed to release 32 hectares of the 227 hectare
Wingfield Military Base for housing development. This is encouraging, but again
we are not particularly hopeful that the land will be developed any time soon
because of the HDA’s track record. Similarly, the Department of Defence
committed to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform and Agriculture
that a portion of the incredibly well-located Tamboerskloof Magazine Site
(alternatively known as ERF81) will be made available for human settlements
development. There is already a long-established community living at ERF81, and
any plans to develop the site will need to ensure that this community is
– How much of the land discussed above has actually been released to the
– What the timeframes for feasibility studies and development plans are
– If there is any other information that would allow the public to
meaningfully participate in the development plans for these sites
We did not even receive an acknowledgement of receipt, nevermind an actual
reply. Given that we represent a broad group of civil society organisations with
long track records in the housing sector in South Africa, the lack of response from
the HDA and Department of Human Settlements does not bode well for the
President’s much mooted new social contract.
We urgently call on the Department of Human Settlements to:
– Furnish the public with information about if, how and when the sites will
– Urgently make use of this exceptional opportunity to fundamentally
reshape Cape Town and other South African cities into places that are more
fair and more just.
– Actively and meaningfully involve communities in the development of
these sites, building on the considerable work of civil society to offer
concrete proposals for how these sites could be developed.
We also call on the new Minister of Public Works, Sihle Zikalala, to urgently pick
up on the land release work initiated by his predecessor so that it can be seen
through to completion.
If the government is serious about addressing our worsening housing crisis, it will
take this chance to fundamentally reshape our cities and address apartheid’s
enduring spatial legacy.
Issued on behalf of Ndifuna Ukwazi, Development Action Group, Community
Organising Resource Centre and the Legal Resources Centre.
Late Prof Vanessa Watson was one of key partners and proponents for this
Adi Kumar (NU): 0710698147 email@example.com
Querida Saal (DAG): 0730964777 firstname.lastname@example.org
Anneline Turpin (LRC): 066 206 0001 email@example.com
Moegsien Hendricks (CORC): 0787478282 firstname.lastname@example.org
– Annexure 1: Civil society presidential submission on the release of
well-located state land in Cape Town
– Annexure 2: Images of the development proposal for the Ysterplaat Airforce
Base from the presidential submission
– Annexure 3: Meeting summary and report from a Select Committee
Meeting on the release of public land
– Annexure 4: Letter from civil society coalition to the Department of Public
Works and Infrastructure
– Annexure 5: Letter from former Minister of Public Works to civil society
– Annexure 6: Letter from civil society coalition to the Department of Human
Settlements and the Housing Development Agency