CAPE LAND DISPUTE

De Lille’s party takes Growthpoint sale dispute to the Public Protector

By Tessa Knight 5 July 2019

This is the property on the Foreshore that the City of Cape Town sold to Growthpoint. Photo from Google Streetview

The sale of a piece of property in Cape Town known as Site B to multi-national corporation Growthpoint Properties last year has consistently come under fire from civic action groups such as Reclaim the City and Unite Behind. Now the GOOD Party has joined the clarion call against the City of Cape Town, calling on the Public Protector to investigate the controversial sale.

The 2016 sale of Site B, a large piece of property located on Cape Town’s foreshore, for R86.5-million, has consistently been a thorn in the side of Growthpoint Properties and remains a contested issue today.

According to legal NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU), the City undervalued the property to the tune of R140-million and advertised it with 17,000m2in bulk rights as opposed to the 46,000min zoning rights actually available to the owners of the Site.

On 30 September 2018 then Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, who is now the leader of the GOOD Party, called for a forensic investigation into the sale of Site B just two days after Growthpoint issued a press statement claiming that the company had met the City of Cape Town and agreed it had “purchased Site B for a fair price, through a transparent and legitimate process”.

Months later GOOD and NU are calling for the city to release the findings of its investigation. Both parties have alleged that the city has completed its report into the sale of Site B, but will not release its findings to the public.

In a statement issued by Ndifuna Ukwazi, the NGO asked: “In the many inconsistent narratives issued by the City in defence of the auction, why would the City not release a report that it claims acquits them of any wrongdoing around this sale?”

According to Brett Herron, former DA councillor and current Secretary-General for GOOD, although the report has not been made public, it “apparently finds nothing irregular about the sale, and that nobody can be held responsible for any losses”.

Daily Maverick asked the City of Cape Town to explain why the report had not been released to the public and received the following response from Luthando Tyhalibongo, spokesperson for the city:

The Forensic investigation into the sale of Site B, Foreshore has been concluded. The investigation revealed that there were no irregularities with regard to the sale of the property.

Please be advised, for access to the forensic report findings, the City advises that you follow due process by applying through the Public Access to Information Act (sic). The City will cooperate with any investigation by the Public Protector.”

The Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) is government’s official process of complying with section 32 of the Constitution, which states that everyone has the right to access information held by the state.

Speaking directly to Daily Maverick, Jonty Cogger, a Ndifuna Ukwazi attorney said on Friday that the NGO had also been told to send a PAIA application for access to the report.

While we will request access to the forensic report, we suspect that this will be refused. Our experience in this regard is that City is not forthcoming about public records, especially when these may implicate financial wrongdoing.”

Now, Herron has asked the Office of the Public Protector in Cape Town to prove the sale of Site B and decide if everything was above board because he does not “accept the outcome of the forensic investigation that nobody is responsible for what happened”.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, Herron said GOOD wants to find out if the Democratic Alliance has a relationship with companies such as Growthpoint.

I’ve had discussions with one of the competing bidders and they were concerned about the level to which Growthpoint was willing to go in that auction, given the advertised development rights. The perception from those who attended the auction was that Growthpoint seemed to be aware that there were more development rights than what was being advertised.”

Herron has tasked the Public Protector with figuring out whether Growthpoint was tipped off to the difference in advertised and actual development rights available to the purchaser of Site B.

Daily Maverick spoke to representatives of Growthpoint and asked the company for comment on Herron’s application to the Public Protector. Growthpoint had not responded at the time of publishing. DM

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