'We want sports field for social housing'

29 May 2018 - 07:52 By Aidan Jones
Supporters of Reclaim the City gathered on a vacant field in Green Point at the weekend.
Supporters of Reclaim the City gathered on a vacant field in Green Point at the weekend.
Image: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

Supporters of Reclaim The City gathered on a vacant piece of City-owned land along Main Road in Green Point on Saturday to draw attention to housing struggles faced by working class people in Cape Town.

“The idea was to organise a fun day where domestic workers‚ security guards and other workers come and claim this space‚” said Nkosikhona Swaartbooi‚ 26‚ head of political organising at Ndifuna Ukwazi‚ which organised the gathering.

“We are here as Reclaim The City supporters to have a fun day where we play sport‚ have some lunch and say ‘we actually exist‚ see us!’ because we have never been acknowledged.”

“We are caretakers and domestic workers here and we have no place to stay‚” said Wilson Ngcombela‚ 63‚ who attended the gathering. He has been a caretaker in Sea Point since 1986. “There are a lot of pieces of land here‚ like this one‚ and they [the City] don’t use it.”

The land is surrounded by a bowling green‚ several tennis courts‚ Green Point Park‚ Metropolitan Golf Course and the Hamilton Rugby Club.

“We have enough land that is used for sports. We need housing‚” said Swaartbooi.

Commenting on social housing developments announced by the City of Cape Town for Woodstock‚ Swaartbooi said‚ “It’s good because we need affordable‚ well located housing‚ but not only in Woodstock. We also want to see that in places like Sea Point.”

“We want the government to actually implement what they have been saying; that they have a spatial transformation plan‚” said Swaartbooi. “And we are saying start with this site‚ in areas where only white people were allowed to stay.”

Jonathan Karelse‚ 37‚ a resident of 104 Darling Street‚ said‚ “The reason we are doing this is to show the government that a lot of families out there are in need of accommodation … That we are well aware of the land that’s just standing vacant.”

“They claim that they can’t accommodate us due to a lack of land‚ yet this is quite big‚” said Karelse‚ gesturing across the lawn. “How many houses can you put up here?”

GroundUp asked the City whether there were development plans for the former bowling green. “The City’s Property Management Department is currently investigating the matter and will respond as soon as feedback is received.” The response was not given by the time of publication.

According to Nick Budlender‚ a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi‚ the land was originally leased to the Atlantic Green Point Bowls Club. “However‚ the club closed in 2016 after one of the buildings on the site caught fire. The club was already in financial difficulty because of low membership.”

Budlender said it seemed that the land was not being leased any more.

“They had no permission for anything to take place there‚” said Wayne Dyason‚ law enforcement spokesperson. He said members of the public had alerted law enforcement to the gathering.

“A group of about 50 [people] with placards about 'take back the land' . . . gathered on the [former] bowling green‚” said Dyason. “It was explained their actions were illegal because they entered the premises without permission and that their placards should be removed. They removed the placards.”

The land is fenced off and has a notice at the gate that anyone wanting to use the land needs to apply for permission from the City.

“We are serious about this‚” said Karelse. “Reclaim The City is not going to just back down.”

The gathering came at a time of increasing housing protests and occupation of land in Cape Town. According to a statement released by the City on Monday‚ “the Anti-Land Invasion Unit removes‚ on average‚ 15‚000 illegal structures” per year. “However‚ in the first four months of 2018 that figure is standing at over 26‚000.”

- This article was first published in GroundUp.

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