A few residents in Parkwood have questioned the City of Cape Town’s public participation process after a community garden was established on Walmer Road – the same road residents protested on in 2018 to demand affordable housing.
At the time residents erected shacks and law enforcement agencies removed them from the open field off the M5 and since then there has been a movement to try and secure affordable housing for backyard dwellers and others in need of housing. A few weeks ago a Parkwood organisation started a gardening project on the open field leading to protest by a few community members on Tuesday February 7.
Dominique Booysen from the Parkwood Backyard Dwellers Association said the ward councillor Donovan Nelson approved a new organisation to start a community garden without consulting the community of Parkwood.
“The structure is in front of a church and is run by Rastas so we feel it needs to be moved so that it doesn’t affect the church. Also why is the garden put up here where we couldn’t get it right to put up structures without consulting us as the community?” asked Mr Booysen.
Paul Phillip, who runs an organisation Voice of Parkwood, said the approval of the gardening project should have been proposed to the community.
“We don’t have anything against the project. It’s a good project but there was no transparent process of public participation and we have many other organisations who could have been afforded the opportunity. If we allow this then there will be many other decisions made on our behalf without our consultation.” he said.
Rafiek Simons, who started the gardening project, said he got permission from the councillor to initiate the programme and hopes to eventually run a sustainable, self-sufficient gardening initiative to help feed the community and to teach the community of Parkwood how to garden.
“I’ve always wanted to start something like this, specifically where there is a lot of dumping in Parkwood so I approached the councillor who told me I could go ahead, on condition that I use my own resources, which is exactly what I’m doing. I’m using my own money to pay for all of this so I don’t understand the community’s frustration.”
Mr Phillips said one of the other issues with the garden is the fact that it is opposite the Parkwood Baptist Church and that the church had previously applied to use a section of the field as a parking and recreational space.
Church Reverend Greg Jacobs confirmed and said the church runs a school holiday programme on the field and would like to apply to use a section of the land.
“We have been in discussion with the ward councillor about our plans to be able to resurface a section and use it as a recreational space for the youth and children and the councillor agreed to move the garden so we are happy and hope to do a lot of good things on the field,” said Reverend Jacobs.
Mr Nelson confirmed that he met with Mr Solomon and agreed that he could use 50 square metres to start and run the project and said there was no need for public participation because there won’t be any structures on the field.
“I told them that the City won’t be able to fund it because we don’t have a running budget and the budget we do have had already been allocated but he was willing to start and run it on his own on principle agreement or approval which is different to a lease. I agreed because it is a great project and I have met with the church and taken their concerns into consideration so the garden will be moved to give space for the church to use the field as well,” said Mr Nelson.
He said some of the complaints from the community are immaterial and said the project is much needed in Parkwood.