Housing activists seize disputed R86m site on Cape Town's Foreshore

04 December 2018 - 12:21 By Sipokazi Fokazi
Activists at Site B, on Cape Town's Foreshore, on Tuesday December 4, 2018.
Activists at Site B, on Cape Town's Foreshore, on Tuesday December 4, 2018.

A handful of protesters who erected shacks in Cape Town’s CBD on Tuesday have called on the City of Cape Town to overhaul its social housing policy to allow the poor to live in the city.

The protesters, who built 11 shacks on an empty plot controversially sold by the city to  developer Growthpoint, said they had occupied the land to show their unhappiness about the sale.

Site B, which was sold in 2016 for R86.5m, is the subject of a city forensic investigation following complaints that the auction of the 3,932m² plot was botched.

A joint statement on Tuesday by Reclaim the City, the Social Justice Coalition and the #UniteBehind civil society coalition said they had built the shacks to "reclaim" Site B.

"Public land should never be sold in a housing crisis - and if it is, then the money should be used for basic services or affordable housing for poor and working-class people," said the statement.

Bevil Lucas from Reclaim the City, who lives at Cissy Gool House in Woodstock – the old Woodstock Hospital building that has been occupied by activists – said the shacks were a symbolic way of expressing unhappiness about the land sale.

He said it was a shame that many poor people who worked in the city centre, including construction workers who built skyscrapers, could not enjoy the fruits of their labour.

“Instead of addressing social housing in the inner city, the city is showing complete disregard for its poor people and is giving huge discounts to very wealthy developers who have no interest in the poor," he said.

"Many people who grew up in shacks have to raise their own families in shacks due to failure by the city to adequately address social housing."

Nontando Mhlabeni from PJS informal settlement in Site B, Khayelitsha, said the discount Growthpoint had allegedly enjoyed on its purchase could have been used to  build homes or upgrade informal settlements.

“In Khayelitsha alone there are many informal settlements that are not serviced at all. The discount would have gone a long way if it was used to improve the lives of the poor," she said.

"Many of us don’t even want to move into the city centre per se … we just want a better life where we are. Many women end up being raped because they have to travel a few kilometres just to get a toilet.”

Nandipha Qegu, a mother of two, said living in an informal settlement in Khayelitsha put her two children at risk of diarrhoea, due to poor sanitation.

“If I live close to town I can just go down the road to look for a job at the Waterfront or other nearby areas. In Khayelitsha I have to get up at 4am to catch a train," she said.

"This puts my life in danger as there are lot of thugs that rob people at that time. I would also love to live in town and experience the better life that rich white people enjoy.”

Growthpoint's corporate communications head, Nadine Kuzmanich, was in a meeting on Tuesday morning. The company said she would respond to the land invasion later.

Growthpoint has previously stated that it plans to develop a skyscraper on the site that “aims to be a world-class, timeless, innovative, sustainable building, which will serve to inspire future buildings”.

"Public land should never be sold in a housing crisis - and if it is, then the money should be used for basic services or affordable housing for poor and working-class people," said the statement.

"We are tired of marching with banners and placards. We are tired of living in places where we are unseen and ignored. We will build our shacks here in peaceful protest. And we will pack your jails to reclaim this stolen public land at the centre of the city."

Growthpoint's corporate communications head, Nadine Kuzmanich, was in a meeting on Tuesday morning. The company said she would respond to the land invasion later.

Growthpoint has previously stated that it plans to develop a skyscraper on the site that “aims to be a world-class, timeless, innovative, sustainable building, which will serve to inspire future buildings”.

Housing activists who built shacks on a vacant site on Cape Town's Foreshore on Tuesday December 4, 2018.
Housing activists who built shacks on a vacant site on Cape Town's Foreshore on Tuesday December 4, 2018.
Image: Sipokazi Fokazi

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