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Note to editors: the below is an open letter from City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, to the National Minister of Public Works, Thulas Nxesi

In 2004, the City’s Metropolitan Cemetery Study identified the lack of land for cemeteries as a major flaw in the human settlement planning for the metro south-east.

Since 2006, the City of Cape Town has been liaising with the National Department of Public Works regarding the acquisition of an unregistered portion of land in Mfuleni to provide a much-needed cemetery in the area.

The population of Mitchells Plain, Blue Downs, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha and Philippi is growing rapidly, without any additional cemetery provision.Three portions of land are required to develop the new cemetery: one belonging to the National Department of Public Works and the other two to the Western Cape Government and the South African National Roads Agency Limited, both of which have already been transferred to the City of Cape Town.

A portion of land of approximately 6 000 hectares is still required from the Department of Public Works.

For a decade now, there has been a lack of real action from the Department to our application to buy this land.

The shortage of space in this area is critical, as the existing Mfuleni and Khayelitsha cemeteries cannot accommodate any further burials.

The City has taken great pains to acquire this land and I am compelled to bring this to your attention out of desperation as we don’t know what else to do to get the Department to see the dire need for burial space.

The provision of community facilities is critical to our growing population. New cemeteries are but one of these essential facilities and are especially significant in communities whose cultures and religions are opposed to cremation.

In March 2011 a meeting was finally arranged between City officials and the National Department of Public Works and a formal letter with the City’s assessed compensation of R385 000 for the land was sent to the Department in April 2011.

The Department then requested the original valuation as a requirement of the Land Affairs Board as well as the National Treasury to confirm that the property values were market-related.

In June 2011, the City’s submission was made to the Minister together with the request to the Land Affairs Board for valuation approval.

The City requested feedback numerous times but no update was forthcoming.

One year later, in June 2012, the Department requested a site inspection and officials from the City and the Department of Public Works from Pretoria met on site.

Another year-and-a-half passed without anything moving forward.

We eventually received a response from the Department in November 2014 stating that it required an updated valuation.

In March 2015, we were notified that the land was available, but that the Land Affairs Board had given it a market value of R3 850 000.

The City then enquired whether the discrepancy in the City’s valuation of R385 000 and their valuation of R3 850 000 was a typing error. No feedback was received.

One has to ask whether this figure was inflated based on the incorrect assumption that it is residential land so that someone can benefit because the land is zoned for agricultural use and was valued accordingly.

After months with no response, in May 2015, I wrote to you Minister requesting your intervention and providing all the supporting documentation.

I conveyed to you that the City had been unable to gain any clarity on whether the discrepancy between the two valuations was the result of a decimal misplacement or if there is a revised valuation of the land.

I requested your urgent assistance in clarifying the purchase price so that we can progress with the transfer of the land and begin work on the cemetery development.

In May 2015, I met with the Director-General of the National Department of Public Works.

The City’s valuation of the property was subsequently updated in June 2015 to R450 000 and this was sent to the Department.

In August 2015, the Department advised that the Land Affairs Board had decided not to approve the City’s valuation of R450 000 and that they would only sell the land for R3 850 000.

The City’s Property Management Department requested a review of the decision by the Board and again numerous efforts to follow up were made, to no avail.

This clearly represents a huge problem characterised by inefficiency and a lack of intergovernmental communication.

Minister Nxesi, this inaction has now reached a crisis point and I am appealing to you to see the urgency of the matter and act accordingly.

We need to resolve these unwarranted delays so that we can provide our communities with much-needed burial space.

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