a Word from our Chair

Dear Obs residents

This has been a really challenging year, both for us as a Civic representing our community, and for our wider society, dealing with the never-before-encountered epidemic of COVID-19, which has changed our lives almost completely.
So, in wishing everyone well over the festive season, I want to remind everyone to stay safe and keep others safe. The Western Cape is in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19 infections and some parts of the province and the Metro are seeing higher rates and more deaths than was the case in our first wave. It is therefore absolutely critical that we protect ourselves and we protect others by (a) ensuring safe social distancing in our contacts; (b) hand wash and/or sanitize to be sure we aren’t transmitting infections to others, or being infected; (c) wear a mask in public and wear it properly (no half-mast under your nose and wearing under your chin is only fashion not an act of protection).
Remember, we are only as safe as the precautions others take to make us safe. You wear the mask, you protect somebody else who is potentially at risk for severe COVID-19 disease. So, do it for yourself and for others – we are all in this together. It’s not cool to be casual about it.
On the Civic side, we will enter the new year with big challenges and big plans:

  1. The River Club development is still under appeal (two separate appeals for two different decisions) and we are gearing up to continue the challenge through a big campaign involving social media, direct action, public awareness-raising, building coalitions, and, if necessary, going to court.
    PLEASE indicate if you wish to assist. We are going to need all the assistance we can get on this. We are up against Big money, Big influence, and Big propaganda, not to mention officials who bend the rules to suit developers. So, we need your contribution and activism to ensure that injustice will not win on this matter – we have truth and justice on our side but we also need your shoulder to assist. Please let us know at [email protected] if you have skills, time, or enthusiasm to offer.
  2. Related to the River Club development is the Malta Park and Hartleyvale precinct plan. It seems the City are again gearing up to lease fields in secret to Cape Town City football club, on land zoned for Open Space and for Community use, without any public participation. The City seems to have decided how they want to see the precinct used without any reference to the local community when the law mandates proper consultation. Despite yet another request to the City for a participatory precinct planning process for the area, which includes the site of the old circus, currently proposed by the Willow Arts Collective as a community project, we have been again stonewalled by the City, who are refusing to engage. For that reason, we will, in the new year consider asking the members of the OCA to discuss the OCA entering the WAC court case as amicus curiae, as a strategy to get some movement on this planning process. If we do propose this, the meeting will be widely advertised in January for the community to comment.
  3. We hope to work with local Businesses whom we know have been severely hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, to encourage Obs residents to buy local and get our business community back on its feet. Working with individual members and with OBSID, we hope to see a stronger involvement from our local businesses in the Civic and stronger support from local residents for our local businesses. Watch this space.
  4. We are also tired of having plans drawn up for us by consultants who don’t care about Observatory. So, we are going to follow through on some planning processes to make Observatory more walkable, more accessible for non-motorized transport, and for people who use wheelchairs. We hope to start a project in the new year that can feed into proper spatial development planning for Observatory and makes better use of public spaces for all to benefit and we will be engaging with OBSID around that.
  5. Lastly, we want to see if we can achieve a more inclusive community in 2021 that recognizes that there are many people of diverse interests and perspectives in Observatory, some long-term residents, and some recent; some business owners, some homeowners, some renting and some without the security of accommodation; people of different social standing, religion, culture, and access to resources; working people, students, unemployed; we have different world views about what is important. But we are all people and we live together in Observatory. To make that work, we need to recognize our humanity and our commitment to a South Africa that is founded on equality, dignity and respect for all. In our engagements going forward, let’s put into action the vision of the Observatory Charter, which we adopted in 2017 and updated in 2018. Just this week, we were witness again to how unequal our society is with a devastating fire in Masphumelele that destroyed over a thousand dwellings and leftover 4000 people homeless. Those wanting to assist can do so via the NPO Living Hope. But this is not the first time such disasters have happened. We can’t continue to take for granted the service delivered by people who work in our homes, in our garages, in our restaurants, for OCA in our car park, without considering the difficulties they face as a result of apartheid spatial planning and the failure of our authorities to find solutions to these systemic problems. We have to think about how we can be part of the change for the better of our wider society.
We have lots of work to do. Recharge yourselves over the Christmas and New Year periods and enjoy the holidays safely. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, may it be joyous and uplifting? And we look forward to welcoming everyone back in 2021 when we rise to new challenges.
Leslie London – OCA Chair