Attack on housing activists ‘politically motivated’

23 July 2017 - 15:04 By Farren Collins
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Kloof street in Cape Town's CBD.
Kloof street in Cape Town's CBD.

Activists for affordable housing in the Cape Town CBD believe an attack last week on occupants of the Helen Bowden Nursing Home in Green Point was politically motivated.

Supporters of the Reclaim the City‚ a campaign for desegregation and affordable housing in the inner city‚ had their lives threatened when a group of about eight heavily armed men stormed the building after the group had their house meeting on Wednesday evening.

The balaclava-clad assailants who were allegedly armed with guns‚ knives and pangas‚ told the activists they had to leave the building because “you do not belong here”.

“They broke the windows and were screaming into the room: ‘We are here to clean the building. You do not belong here. This is government property‚ you have to leave’‚” said RTC spokesperson Nkosikhona Swaartboi. “They also threatened people and said they were going to kill everyone.”

The group was able to secure the door to the room they were in until police arrived a short while later and scared off the attackers.

On Sunday Swaartboi told TimesLIVE that they were unsure who the attackers were but they believed the attack was a politically motivated reaction to the group of about 70 activists’ occupation of the empty building.

“There is no way that random guys would organise themselves this way to attack people in that particular building. Why is it that the building with housing activists was the only one that was attacked?”

On Friday activist Zacki Achmat tweeted for people to engage Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on the matter.

“I do not believe she is in any way responsible but she is accountable because it is provincial property‚” he told TimesLIVE.

Swaartboi said that occupants were able to identify some of the attackers outside the building after police had arrived and that police apprehended five suspects who were all later released “without taking names or fingerprints because they said they did not have enough evidence to charge them”.

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk confirmed the incident but said that no arrests were made.

“Allegedly‚ residents attended a meeting at mentioned place‚ when an unidentified group of men with balaclavas and a firearm approached and threatened them‚” Van Wyk said.

“A pointing of fire-arm was registered for investigation. A pellet gun was also handed in.”

Lawyers at the Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre‚ who are representing the RTC supporters‚ are assisting the occupiers in resolving this case and took statements and assisted people in going to the police.

“This will not stop the struggle and we will continue the fight in searching for dignity for people who require affordable accommodation in well located areas‚” said Swaartboi.

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