The inside story of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

A response to Tony Jackman’s Daily Maverick rant

Daily Maverick published a story by Tony Jackman titled “WHEN CHARACTER DIES: V&A Waterfront: consuming itself, a greedy bite at a time“.

“It’s the Monaco of Cape Town, a playground for the super-rich in a city infamously neglectful of its poor. Cut off, more than ever, from the city of which it is supposedly a part, it has become obsessed with itself and its advancement, the sybarite at the dinner table, the narcissist you once thought you knew. It’s time to hit pause.”

V&A Waterfront_22-03-26_Carl-Momberg

 Let’s start with what the V&A’s initial aims were, way back in 1989.  Firstly, it was to seamlessly reconnect the city to the sea — to the CBD at the southern side and residential Green Point at the western side.  It’s doing that pretty well. 

Secondly, the V&A was to respond to market demands but be responsible for its built heritage.  It was not planned as a static and sacred memorial, with polite cobwebs to remind you of that.

And thirdly, it had to be profitable.  (Today, it is owned by of the Government Employees Pension Fund with more than 1.2 million active members and over 490 000 pensioners and beneficiaries — who enjoy above average returns on their investment.  It has become the most valuable property on the African continent.)

No-one had any qualms about those aims.  But these are facts that Tony Jackman cannot grasp and what can only be called a loquacious rant was published by Daily Maverick.  It’s almost two years to the day since Branko Brkic, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Maverick, had to publish an apology to readers for the fictional story by Jacques Pauw accusing the V&A of mistreatment.  Daily Maverick has failed again.

Jackman’s writing seems inspired by Alice in Wonderland:


“How could there be so much of everything? How do you find your way any more? Any focus has long perished; in its place, a perplexing maze of brick, steel and glass, punctuated with bobbing boats with their skippers touting for your custom, almost everything designed to enthral and inspire. But collectively its effect is to overwhelm and confuse.”   
Jackman is obviously more at home in Cradock than he is in Cape Town.  Cape Town is a thriving, bustling city.  And age brings its own challenges, like accepting that the only constant in this world is change, which happens even faster in retail spaces.

Everything is expensive.  The clothes are expensive… even the Coke.”  This is nonsense.  Food & beverage chains do not have separate pricing for the V&A.  And if Jackman can’t afford where wealthy tourists spend their money, there’s always Mr Price V&A. “The Cape Wheel is moving, making way for a piazza to accommodate public transport.”  Not correct. Cape Wheel was relocated to reduce congestion in that part of the V&A, and certainly not for public transport.  There are more factual faux pas.

Jackman’s attacks on the V&A are not new and go back 33 years — the V&A is not 31 years old as Jackman states — when he wrote a scathing column after his wife complained about costs and service.  @GordonKling, Cape Times editor at the time, will probably remember the incident since he became involved.  

Jackman muddles on at length about the old Food Market in the old Electric Light & Power Station which is being replaced by a Time Out Food Market.  The Food Market’s lease had come to an end.  The operator was responsible for his traders. It catered for a mish mash of traders and two years ago someone in the V&A’s retail section said that, based on what it had learned from the Watershed, the company would have managed it better.  It had become a little seedy and tired.  So when a globally-admired brand made an offer, it was a no-brainer. Jackman’s conclusion seems to be that Time Out should be given a different location, while he decries new development, and that existing traders should still be accommodated.

Sure, the V&A is not everybody’s cup of tea and if there is an informed and intelligent criticism to be made, it should probably focus on crass consumerism and all malls should be the focus of that criticism.  The real problem is society but Jackman can’t get off his three-decade-old hobby horse long enough to mention that the V&A is the greenest property on the African continent, or give any level of support for praiseworthy food initiatives like Makers Landing (which Jackman, as Daily Maverick’s food editor, should be applauding).  The V&A is trying very hard to make a difference — in the right direction — points Jackman is blind to.

“Go away from the Waterfront for five minutes and when you return there’ll be another new development, another renovation, another innovation. Something will be gone, something new will be coming soon, all manner of other things will be pending.”
This is from an author who shared his endeavours, his new kitchen windows, his new interiors, his revamped patio, and his changes to the toilet and passages on Facebook.

 The Daily Maverick article is pure click bait.  It’s unprofessional drivel.  It’s self-indulgent bile wrapped in loquacity. Tony Jackman should stick to writing cook books.


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