‘We will stay until our demands are met’

Activists continue to occupy two buildings, including Helen Bowden Nurses home, in a demand for affordable housing.

The Helen Bowden Nurses home in Granger Bay has been dubbed Ahmed Kathrada House by activists, who say they will continue to occupy buildings until their demands are met.

Reclaim the City occupied two buildings last week in response to the provincial government’s decision to sell the Tafelberg school site to a private school instead of using it for affordable housing (“Reclaim occupy buildings”, Atlantic Sun, March 30).

Reclaim the City supporter and long-time activist, Zackie Achmat, said it was important for people to put their bodies on the line for what they believe in.

He added that if the issue of spatial inequality was continuously ignored, then the protests would only increase.

“It is important for people to be willing to put their bodies on the line to resist. People must be prepared to be arrested,” said Mr Achmat.

“Property developers, local, government must realise that if the problem of spatial inequality is ignored then the protests will increase to the tens of thousands.”

The occupation movement was part of Reclaim the City’s “robust” response to the province’s decision to sell the Tafelberg site in Sea Point. They have also occupied the Woodstock Hospital site which they have renamed to Cissie Gool House, in honour of anti-apartheid activist Zainunnisa “Cissie” Gool.

Supporters of the campaign are demanding government announce timelines for the establishment of affordable housing at both sites.

They are also calling for the sale of the contested Tafelberg site in Sea Point to be reversed and that it be used for affordable housing instead.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town announced last week that they were willing to declare Cape Town as a restructuring zone to accommodate affordable housing. The City said it had informed both provincial and national governments of its intentions.

In a statement issued last week, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said: “There are ample opportunities for affordable housing in many areas across the metro, and the development and availability of affordable rental accommodation in central areas of the city must play a key role in the future development of Cape Town.

“Currently, however, the City cannot get access to social housing grants from national government unless suitable land is located within a restructuring zone.”

Mr Herron added that: “The City’s restructuring zones were approved in 2010 after the promulgation of the Social Housing Act. There is currently some uncertainty as to whether ‘central business district and surrounds’ include areas like Sea Point, for example.

“In an effort to remove any uncertainty, we are proposing to extend our restructuring zones, subject to the Western Cape government and the national minister’s approval, so that no area is excluded in future.

“This will be initiated through the City’s Spatial Development Framework, Integrated Development Plan, and Built Environment Performance Plan processes. Once completed, it will enable the City to develop any suitable land within the city’s boundaries for affordable housing opportunities.”

Should this take place, it would mean that there could eventually be affordable housing at sites like Tafelberg.

“The City is committed to actively redressing and reversing the spatial legacy of apartheid planning and has always considered
all centrally located areas (such as the central business districts and surrounds) as well as zones along key transport routes to be restructuring zones that are eligible for affordable housing,”said Mr Herron.

In response, provincial government said they “welcomed” the announcement by the City.