Activists vow to continue fight for housing

People occupying City-owned properties in the City centre and surrounding areas attended a meeting at 104 Darling Street on Saturday June 2.

On Wednesday May 30, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, confirmed that a new affordable housing project has been planned for the formerly unused Bowling Green in Green Point – referred to by housing activists as the Rasta Dolophini site.

This comes after a long battle over the use of the site, between Reclaim the City campaign and the City of Cape Town.

The campaign is a social movement of tenants and workers struggling to gain access to land and affordable housing close to work opportunities.

On Saturday May 23, Ndifuna Ukwazi activists and its supporters gathered on the bowling green demanding to know the City’s plans for the site as the current lease was coming to an end.

Reclaim the City spokesperson Nkosikhona Swaartbooi said they had written to the City’s deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, demanding answers because they feared that the City was prioritising exclusive developments instead of accommodating low-income earners working in Green Point and Sea Point.

Mr Swaartbooi said the City had confirmed to them that they were planning a new affordable housing development for the site. However, said Mr Swaartbooi, they needed clarity from the City because they did not understand what “affordable” actually meant from the City’s perspective.

He also emphasised that they were not asking for free housing but rather, dignified homes which were affordable to them.

“There’s exclusive developments near the site while there are security guards and domestic workers who have been working in the Green Point to Sea Point areas for decades, but we haven’t seen any plan from the City to accommodate them and this is an insult because they live in small rooms behind the fancy apartments,” said Mr Swaartbooi.

Mr Herron confirmed that the City was investigating the future development of Erf 2187, but noted that this was dependent on the required statutory processes, among which were public participation, and the necessary approvals being granted by Council and other spheres of government.

He said the intention was to have a mixed-use development which would include affordable housing.

Green Point Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association chairman Jenny McQueen, said they were not opposed to affordable housing but believed the site was still a part of the Green Point Common which had been declared a provincial heritage site in March (“Green Point Common declared a heritage site”, Atlantic Sun, March 22).

She added that they were shocked that there were proposals to use this piece of land for housing as it had been granted as a recreational area for the residents. She said they were looking forward to the public participation on the matter.

On Saturday June 2, Ndifuna Ukwazi held yet another meeting where representatives of the Helen Bowden nurses’ home near the Waterfront, property Erf 81 in Tamboerskloof, and property 104 in Darling Street in the city centre discussed how to make sure the City provided them with housing within the city centre and surrounding areas.

While Ndifuna Ukwazi member, Lwazi Mtshiwo, urged supporters to continue fighting for justice, people currently occupying these properties said they were regularly harassed by the City’s public works department and law enforcement officials.

“We’ve been living here for years and we don’t have water or electricity and the conditions we live under are beyond inhumane,” said one of those living at 104 Darling Street.

“For many years we felt like evictions were our fault, but it has never been our fault, but this is a system run by a government supported by the banks of this country,” said Mr Swaartbooi.

He added that Cape Town was still as exclusive as it had been during apartheid and told the crowd they were planning to occupy more spaces to show the City that housing was not a privilege but a basic right.