Grassy Park Cafda centre on the market

Community leaders at the meeting raised concerns about CAFDA selling its premises in Grassy Park. Pictured, from left, are Sheila Jacobs, Lucinda Evans, Mymoena Scholtz, Samton Groenewald, Raheema Paulse and Moriedah Dien.

News that the Cape Flats Development Association (CAFDA) is closing its family centre in Grassy Park has been met with alarm by many who see the 72-year-old organisation as a vital lifeline.

The property on the corner of 8th Avenue and Prince George Drive is up for sale for R22 million.

Cafda’s Mary Attlee Centre in Retreat was sold in 2014. The centre was named after its first chairperson, the sister of the then British prime minister.

The non-profit organisation has been helping people from all over the Cape Flats since it was established in 1944, after a commission of inquiry exposed the dire conditions thousands endured in the southern areas of the Cape Peninsula. Originally known as the Cape Flats Distress Association, Cafda would battle rampant poverty, disease and malnutrition, frequently aggravated by the winter flooding of people’s homes.

For more than seven decades, the association has provided social development programmes, government services, job creation projects, child and family support and other service to some of society’s most vulnerable.

Ward 110 councillor Shanen Rossouw called an urgent meeting with community leaders, residents and various organisations on Thursday March 9 to discuss the sale of the property. She said she had been stunned to learn of the sale and wanted answers from Cafda.

“Cafda is very near to the heart of many people from the area because the organisation has and is helping many of our people. The fact that they are selling the premises would be detrimental because what will happen to the services being offered?

“There are rumours that they are moving. How are the people who so desperately need these services and who depend on these services going to access it if they have to travel to their new premises? The organisation has been silent about it but the community need answers” said Ms Rossouw.

Members of the Cafda executive board were invited to the meeting but didn’t attend.

Sheila Jacobs, from NPO Community for Peace, said the Cafda board should have consulted with the community before thinking about selling.

“Cafda is a very important service provider right on the doorstep of so many people who are in need. Why do they want to take that away from the community?” she said. “The premises in 8th Avenue is a historic place and is a heritage site. They’ve already sold the Mary Attlee Centre and now they want to sell the other parts too. This issue needs to be addressed.”

Mymoena Scholtz, from Vrygrond NPO Where Rainows Meet, said they often referred people to Cafda for social services and would back the community in its efforts to get answers from the Cafda board.

Lucinda Evans, founder of Philia Abafasi Bethu, said her organisation was worried about what would happen to the services Cafda rendered.

Cafda chairman Mark Rossouw confirmed the property had been put on the market in October last year. He added that Cafda itself would not close “for a long time yet” but would move to another location. The new premises, he said, had not been decided on but it would be secure, central and safe.

He said funding difficulties had motivated the decision to sell the 8th Avenue centre, but it hadn’t been taken lightly.

“We are reliant on donor funding, but donors are reluctant to fund operating expenses and Cafda has been operating on a deficit of between R150 000 to R200 000 a month for a long time. The Cafda property is, unfortunately, the bane of our financial woes, as it is responsible for 70 percent of our monthly operating expenses,” he said.

The Department of Social Development, he said, had advised them to sell the property four years ago. “We, however, persevered and opted to hold on to the property instead.”

Mr Rossouw said that while Cafda served the community, it did not belong to the community so it had not been compelled to seek the community’s permission to sell.

“The Cafda governing board is guided by a constitution, which give us the power to dispose of or acquire any Cafda assets as long as due process in terms of the constitution was followed and I can assure the community that it was.”

Asked why the board had not attended the meeting called by the councillor, he said their legal counsel advised them not to.

Asked what Cafda had done with the proceeds from the sale of the Mary Attlee Centre, Mr Rosouw said the money was invested into an interest-bearing account, but the dividends from the investment had been insufficient to cover operating expenses.

Mr Rossouw said money from the sale of the 8th Avenue premises would be used to buy a smaller, property, with the balance being invested to ensure Cafda’s financial survi-
val.

“Placing the property on the market might seem to be a drastic step now, but drastic situations require drastic actions and without such radical action now, Cafda as an organisation will not be around for very long,” said Mr Rossouw.

Giving Cafda a stronger financial footing, he added, would help it deliver a better service to the community.

SihleNgobese, spokesman for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, said the departmentwould makecontingency plans so that services were not disrupted. Residents could also continue to approach the department’s social workers at their nearest regional offices