Sad note to protest

Protesters outside the Cape Town Civic Centre.

The fight for decent housing continued last week as activists spent their Human Rights Day, March 21, making their voices heard in a march from Keizersgracht Street to the Cape Town Civic Centre.

It was an especially emotional event for members of the Reclaim the City movement as they mourned the death of one of their own.

Zamuxolo Patrick Dolphini, known to all as Rasta, had been stabbed outside the Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Granger Bay, Green Point, on March 18.

A 46-year-old security guard was subsequently arrested and has been released on bail.

He will make his next court appearance on Wednesday May 30.

Some of the marchers wore black armbands in remembrance of Rasta, 51, who had been living at the nurses home, which activists had renamed Ahmed Kathrada House.

Rasta had apparently tried to make his way to the Somerset Hospital just over 200 metres down the road but his injuries proved fatal as he lost excessive amounts of blood.

Sea Point SAPS spokeswoman, Captain Elizabeth Munro said the case is under investigation by Detective Sergeant Christopher Botha.

The men had apparently been involved in an altercation where Rasta allegedly attacked the man with a hammer and he then allegedly stabbed Rasta.

Reclaim the City’s house leader and co-ordinating committee member, Bevil Lucas, said very few people had seen what happened.

“Other occupiers (occupants) living at Ahmed Kathrada House came outside when they heard the news, and they were soon joined by Reclaim the City supporters from across the inner city. That night, the Sea Point police arrested a security guard working for a private security company contracted by the province to protect the house.”

Mr Lucas said Rasta was well known to everyone in the Reclaim the City movement and that he would be dearly missed by his two children, siblings and partner Elizabeth Gqoboka, who is also an activist.

“He came from Marikana in Philippi to support the occupation in the early days. Many of the occupiers are elderly people, women and children – and he came when we were cleaning up the derelict rooms and making homes for members who were being evicted or could no longer pay the rent. He brought perspective, wisdom and fearlessness from another land struggle to the house when we were finding our feet and he would split his time between the house and his work, fishing at sea. He helped to protect occupiers against criminals and thugs who threatened us.”

The provincial government has issued letters to Reclaim the City occupants, notifying them that “unlawful occupation” at the Helen Bowden Nurses Home will come to an end,(“End of ‘unlawful occupation’”, Atlantic Sun, March 22).

This was initially their reason for the march on Human Rights Day.

Mr Lucas said the house has been occupied because of their desperation for housing. “We occupied Ahmed Kathrada House because we too have the right to live in the city, the right to walk on the promenade, the right to have a view of the sea, the right to raise our children and care for our parents in good areas where there are good schools and good hospitals. We occupied Ahmed Kathrada House because we are ordinary people who are forced to take extraordinary steps to live a decent and dignified life. We are young people looking for work. We are mothers with children working as cleaners and nurses. We are elderly people who have worked our whole lives in the city and now have nowhere to go.”

In a statement, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron said he had received a memorandum from the Social Justice Coalition, Reclaim the City, the District Six Working Committee, and others and explained that he had “numerous engagements” with activists who are fighting for decent housing.

“My most recent engagement was with Reclaim the City about two weeks ago when they arrived at my home at 5am to protest, and to engage with me on housing matters. I sat down with them in my street and we spoke. I remain willing to engage with any organisation in an effort to address what I regard as one of our greatest challenges – our housing deficit.”

Mr Herron said that during the sit-down to engage with the protesters he laid down the commitments he has made before.

“I reiterated our commitment to a more equitable geographical distribution of emergency or transitional housing options; using well-located City-owned land to address the housing deficit; to improve the locality of housing opportunities; and to address the policy vacuum on inclusionary housing so that our planning regime is more predictable and provides clarity on the role of the private developer to contribute to the deficit of affordable housing. I repeated what I have said before: that where people live matters.

“It is quite shameful that 24 years after democracy, and on the day we celebrate the rights enshrined in our constitution, those forcefully evicted from their homes by the apartheid government are still waiting for justice and for their promised restitution. I accept their grievance as legitimate and I stand in solidarity with their frustration.”