Bekezela Phakathi’s recent article refers (“Sewerage infrastructure backlog has Cape Town property developers up in arms”, September 26).  As an entrepreneur living and working in Cape Town, I am well positioned to appreciate why members of the Western Cape Property Development Forum and the Cape Chamber of Commerce are upset about the moratorium on development.

What I don’t understand is why now? Where have they, as representative bodies, been for the past 10 years? What took them so long to start doing something about Cape Town’s infrastructure (or, rather, the lack of it)? Why have they not been asking the hard questions of the City of Cape Town?

In response to their public statements, these are the questions I would like to ask them:

  • What is your stance on densification and development?
  • Do you see ensuring the environment does not suffer as your responsibility?
  • What is your strategy when it comes to the environment you live and work in?
  • What have you as official bodies in the Western Cape been doing for the past 10 years to engage with the city?
  • What are your views on partnership with communities when it comes to the environment?
  • How do you see your respective roles in resolving this problem?
  • How much funding have you and the businesses you represent put aside to mitigate your impact on the environment?
  • What engagements, if any,  have taken place on this issue between your organisations and the City of Cape Town?
  • If any, what were the outcomes thereof, and was this information shared with affected communities?

I believe the pollution and sewage issues have been developing right under the noses of developers and businesses in Cape Town for 10 years or more. While the Milnerton Central Residents Association and other caring ratepayer organisations, non-governmental organisation and community activists have been driving the clean water and densification-with-dignity initiatives, business has literally been driving through the sh*t in our streets to the next building site or retail outlet.

Not one business in Cape Town has walked into a meeting at which I was present and asked, “How can we help solve the pollution crisis?” Business in general has been missing in action, quite frankly. And if I missed such an offer, where are the press announcements and pictures of them taking proactive action to protect our water and the future of our environment?

Sharing their concern now that profits are directly affected is disingenuous at best. Livelihoods are intrinsically linked to the quality of the water, vleis, rivers, estuaries and beaches were we live and work. Profits are directly affected by the same issues we experience every day, so I must ask the businesses: What are they prepared to do? What are they doing? What have they done? Where have they been?

As a city, as a community, we would be so much further down the line, healthier, stronger and capacitated if organisations such as these and their members had stepped up to the plate with respect to the environment. Our environment would be cleaner and the results would manifest at a pace that supports their goals and objectives as well as ours.

The Milnerton Central Residents Association will not rest until the pollution and abuse of wastewater treatment works and the associated infrastructure of the water-use licences across the metro is over. The recent directive by Western Cape law enforcement, and its consequences, are now here for years to come and the executives of the City of Cape Town will need to be held to account by all of us every step of the way.

I call on businesses large and small, the Cape Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Developers Forum and other like-minded organisations to be part of the solution. It is not just their bottom lines that are affected; it is our streets and our waterways and vleis. We are all responsible for the environment — polluted or clean — that our children will inherit.

Finally, for the record, active citizens, ratepayer organisations and the Organisation United Against Tax Abuse made this happen, not the city. This was not some magnanimous decision on the part of the city. Their hand was forced through legal channels and from incredibly hard work by dedicated residents in their spare time. Business was nowhere to be found.

Peter Walsh, Milnerton

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