The following is a speech delivered by the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia de Lille at the launch of the Urban Regeneration Programme for the Voortrekker Road Corridor this morning.
Members of the Public Leadership Forum,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning, goeiedag, molweni,
There is a great deal of focus on cities as economic drivers in international development discourse at the moment.
As such, there is a sustained and collective effort to create dynamic solutions for the economic challenges that urban areas face.
Though these challenges are often great, I believe that the character of cities, i.e. the vibrant economic and intellectual centres of society, allows for constant development and improvement, both economic and social.
However, there is a difference in the South African context.
The legacy of Apartheid spatial planning has resulted in a socially and economically divided urban atmosphere.
Many areas, although physically close to the business centres, provide their citizens with very little opportunity for economic mobility.
As a result, the City is making an intensive effort to reach out to these communities through our approaches to densification.
I believe that the current discussion around South African Cities in the development context does not paint a detailed enough picture.
For instance, there is much discussion about informal settlements and backyarders, but such discussions all too often gloss over our economic inner-city areas.
In our bid to be a Caring and Inclusive City, it is important that we address this imbalance.
I believe that, along with informal settlements and issues of access and services, inner-city decay is a challenge that is common to all major South African cities.
It is important to stress that decay does not just refer to the general grime and deterioration that comes with time, but the erosion of the economic vitality of our economic centres.
Look at Johannesburg’s CBD.
Look at Durban’s.
There have been attempts to restore some of these areas, but the dominant trend has been an exodus to the business nodes created by the private sector.
Several years ago, Cape Town seemed as though it was headed in a similar direction, but I honestly believe that we have arrested that trend, reversed it and reclaimed our city.
Today, Cape Town’s CBD is a safe place of business that provides an economic and social hub for our city.
But in development terms, we are not restricted to thinking in a limited way about economic energies.
We know that the City’s lifeblood is connected by different points that create an infrastructure framework along which pulsing economic and social energies travel.
This is the complex, self-reinforcing grid of a city with over 3 million residents.
We are determined to see similar success in the second biggest business node in the City, Bellville. This is an area which is of critical importance to the future of the city.
The Mayor’s Urban Regeneration campaign takes those efforts to the next level, aiming to improve a number of business centres in the City.
While they are all important, no one doubts the significance of the Voortrekker Road Corridor (VRC).
From Bellville, to Parow, to Goodwood and other areas, this is a huge space.
But not only in physical terms.
It is huge in terms of the economic potential possesses.
This is based on the established businesses already there.
But it is also based on the businesses that will come if we do what needs to be done.
I don’t believe that government should do everything.
I believe in the power of partnerships in unlocking potential.
That is why I am so happy with the establishment of the Public Leadership Forum (PLF).
The forum brings together politicians, academics, business and civil society in order to effect change.
It is a perfect example of everyone taking ownership of the City and its future.
We are excited about the potential to revitalise the corridor.
As partners, working together and giving everything we have, I know that revitalisation is possible.
From our side, we have already put in place the Area Coordinating Team (ACT), whose work is well under way.
They are putting the basics in place, such as arresting crime and grime.
This helps lay the foundation for future economic activity.
We are elevating the more complex issues at ACT and sub-council level, to a coordinating body consisting of the City’s leadership.
We are coordinating our efforts to get safety, health, planning and transport issues addressed as quickly as possible. This group of senior City leaders can unlock budgets and direct the necessary City resources to fix problems as, and when, they arise.
Soon, we hope that the forum, working with the ACT, will put us on the front foot.
I am also pleased to announce that this area has been prioritised for accelerated planning considerations and bulk services, as part of being at the centre of our economic strategy.
Given the urgency of the task and the complexity of the challenges, I am determined that our Planning Department, as well as other City branches, do not simply continue with a business as usual approach.
I am determined that we use innovative mechanisms to ensure that we extend land use rights, so that we can densify, and in so doing spur economic development.
This will take us to the next level of development in the corridor, and reverse the trends of business migration.
I want to assure current property owners, and potential investors in this area, that this City, working with its partners, means business.
The details of these improved measures will be shared at the Subcouncil level, where they will be further refined with all stakeholders.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank everyone for their hard work.
I believe that we have a unique opportunity to consolidate Cape Town’s position as a leader in arresting the trend of urban decay.
Let us make the trend of business migration out of traditional economic centres a trend that only applies to other cities, not Cape Town.
In conclusion, let me thank everyone for their hard work.
But let me also say that our work is just beginning.
You can count on the City of Cape Town as a partner.
18 May 2012