Residents want transparency in awarding of lease for sports fields

a private entity out of public funds”” to have exclusive access to fields at Hartleyvale and Malta Park. Photographer: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

NEWS | By Bulelwa Payi |  Jan 24, 2021

The petition accuses the City of  subsidising “a private entity out of public funds” to have exclusive access to fields at Hartleyvale and Malta Park.

The City awarded a lease to the Cape Town City Football Club, which plays in the country’s Premier Soccer League, in 2017 for the use of the fields at Malta Park B and Hartleyvale A in Observatory.

The lease came to an end on December 31.

Both Cape Town City Football Club and another football club FC Kapstadt, have now submitted lease applications for the use of the fields for the next couple of years.

The Observatory Civic Organisation (OCA), which initiated the petition, said a decision to lease public land to a private entity and “so deny public access to that land” could not be done without public participation.

“Yet the City has not initiated such a consultation. It is seemingly trying to get this approved by the back door,” the organisation charged.

It further condemned the conduct of the City when it awarded the lease agreement for just under three years in 2017,  saying this was done using a “loophole” in the Municipal Asset Transfer Regulations (MTAR).

“We believe the City is trying to do the same thing again, by using that loophole. In any event, the MTAR empowers the City to hold a public participation process irrespective of how long such a lease is,” the OCA said.

The petition further questioned the City’s decision-making processes, saying it favoured entities which were economically powerful and had political influence.The fields lie within the Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) across the proposed controversial multi-billion rand River Club development.

“In fact we suspect that the plans by Cape Town City FC to build a privately owned 10 000-seater stadium, which neither they nor the City have made public, are closely linked  to the River Club development,” the petition reads.

The civic association called on the City to “stop using the TRUP area as a political playground for gerrymandering ahead of the upcoming municipal elections”.

It also suggested that “secrecy and collusion” were being relied upon to get the new lease decided in favour of Cape Town City Football Club.

The City was also criticised for the rental that it charged the Cape Town City Football Club for use of the field – which amounted to ” 23 cents per square metre per month excluding VAT”.

FC Kapstadt believed it was “unfairly” treated by the City and was not consulted or given an opportunity to apply for a lease in 2017.

FC Kapstadt president Zaid Omar said his club was promised a long lease agreement in lieu of vacating the Stephan Rd, Green Point Common facility which it had leased and occupied in order to develop the now Green Point Urban Park ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“So we swapped the Green Point facility for Hartleyvale,” Omar said.

The club is currently using the Hartleyvale D field for 14 teams from the Under 7 to 18 age group and four seniors teams.

“Since we lost the A Field in 2017, we have had to cut our membership in order to accommodate all teams under severe circumstances. The impact this has on the turf and associate expenses is enormous. This has also denied local amateur development footballers the opportunity to be developed by the club,” Omar said.

Cape Town City Football Club spokesperson Julian Bailey said the club had followed “all of the City’s due stringent processes in relation to the lease agreement“.

“We kindly ask that you direct any further questions in this regard to the City directly”, Bailey said.

The City confirmed that it had received lease applications from the two football clubs for the Hartleyvale fields.

It said it would “consider”  both applications “in line with the prescribed procedure as determined by legislation”, including public participation.

There were no details of when and how the public participation process would be done.

The City also said with regards to tariffs  it was “entitled” to adopt below market-related tariffs in respect of property rights, including sporting bodies.

“The status of the lessee does not determine whether a tariff is applicable or not but the usage and commercial component of the operations are considered”, it said.

The OCA said it had requested the City to initiate a participatory urban planning process for the Malta Park and Hartleyvale precincts.

“These piecemeal decisions are bad planning approaches and will cement long term inequality.  It’s hard to understand how the City thinks it is complying with the principle of redress of apartheid inequalities contained in SPLUMA (Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act) but allowing the exclusion of FC Kapstadt in favour of a big corporate commercial club,” said OCA.