Philippi Horticultural Association Press Conference
With COP27 currently taking place in Egypt, highlighting the complex issues of climate change, the devastation caused by floods and droughts, feast or famine, unscrupulous exploitation of natural and other resources, there is still hope. Hope inspired by people and organisations who have made it their life’s work to bring climate justice to our planet and to those who would otherwise have no voice.
One such group is the Philippi Horticultural Association. This is a group of “farmers who seek to be good stewards of the land, given by the Creator as an ‘amana’ [trust] in safekeeping for future generations to come.” [See press release.]
A 2020 High Court judgement ordered that a proper assessment of the 500ha Oakland City Development on climate change, the aquifer and water scarcity take place. The developers have presented their study. It is now in the hands of MEC Anton Bredell who must make the call and decide whether to approve or not the developers’ proposal. The Western Cape Government had previously adopted the PHA Indego Study Protection Plan and identified the PHA food land as the city’s resilience against climate change. Only time will … either decision will impact the lives, livelihoods and the environment of all affected parties.
The relocation of people who are currently living on the Central Railway line to the Philippi area was announced by the Minister of Transport who apparently had not consulted the Ward Councillor in the Philippi area. The land earmarked belongs to various spheres of government as well as private owners. The impact on the water supply from the Cape Flats Aquifer, food production, the lack of basic services for human settlement and crime are some of the concerns raised by the PHA and others. The impact on climate change will also be felt as food will have to be produced elsewhere and brought from greater distances to the City’s growing population and the overuse of the Aquifer could lead to dwindling water supply. Who can forget the drought we experienced not so long ago! It is also important to know what the impact will be on the farmers who have put all they have into sustaining this project year after year. What will happen to them and their livelihoods? And … what about the people who have nowhere to call home? Where will they live?
Every person has a fundamental constitutional right to adequate housing and basic services. The livelihoods of those who have for many decades provided Cape Town with much needed fresh fruit and vegetables right on its doorstep also have their rights enshrined in our constitution. Where to from here?
The answers of course are far from simple or easy to find. Whatever decisions are taken by the Western Cape Government [and the delegates attending COP27], we are called to be custodians of Creation, to care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner and not to glean to the edges of our fields. God entrusted the care of all of creation to humans – to care justly and holistically. I would like to suggest that we can start looking for answers by living out the greatest commandment Jesus gives: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31.
Justice is needed everywhere. I believe that should all of us (and especially those in powerful positions) take Jesus’ commandment seriously justice will be restored and it will prevail, particularly for the least among us.
With gratitude to all who heed the call for justice.