(GIN) – Banners are going up in South Africa’s second city with the message “Reclaim the City” as residents demand an end to gentrification
With a shortage of affordable housing, a group of Cape Town residents have occupied a large, empty building which once housed hospital workers.
“We’re into our second month now,” says Sheila Madikane, a domestic worker. “We don’t get rest time, because we are always between meetings, work, the occupation and our homes … if we have them. Even tonight I have to go back to my children because the electricity has run out. It’s all part of the struggle.”
The occupation began in March when the Western Cape government reneged on a previous commitment to develop an abandoned building into public housing. The property is now up for sale, with plans to use the income to finish upgrading a new head office for the provincial government’s education department.
The occupiers are refusing to accept the sale, and are demanding commitments from the provincial government to turn similar buildings in the city into public housing.
The decision was met by outrage from the Reclaim The City campaign who said it was “unjust and an insult to black and working-class people throughout Cape Town who are the vast majority of residents”.
The neighborhood, known as Sea Point, was designated “whites-only” during apartheid and is now one of the most desirable and affluent parts of the city. For a while, it became more diverse, with the racial mix changing, but now it is well on the way to becoming a whites-only enclave again.
Cape Town is dotted with neighborhoods which have been rebuilt for the affluent, for foreigners and tourists. This week, 15 families facing eviction were in court, represented by LegalWise, a law firm handling landlord-tenant and similar cases for people of low income.
The lawyer, Mark Owen, has asked the City of Cape Town to find alternative accommodation for them.
“Given the nature of this case and the number of evictions, we will be requesting the city council be included in this matter. We will be requesting that they submit a report of alternative accommodation for my clients.”