Reclaiming Their City…..

4th May 2017

After a quick look around GreenMarket early this morning it was back to the NU offices for various interviews the first with Hopolang.  She gave me a brief on Tafelberg and Bromwell Street, Reclaim the City and the current occupations at both Tafelberg and Woodstock.  Believe me when I say a 100 page blog would NOT do the amount of work NU, Reclaim the City and the residents have put in over the past six months, I am however, going to try and give you a quick brief time-line of what has happened since Sean and I were last here.


November 2016

  1. Provincial Government published their (problematic) feasibility study for the Tafelberg site which included a proposal for 270 social homes. They also stated they would stand to lose R135 million through NOT selling the entire site.
  2. NU gather a task team including the likes of Malcom McCarthy from NASHO (whom we met last time),artichects and planners to assess the model
  3. (Hopolang explained social housing funds come from two government subsidised grants in order to construct a house however, these amounts are minimal amounting to R300,000)
  4. In this proposal government had looked to increase these grants however, what they didn’t filter in was an increase in the ‘band’ meaning that in order to qualify for social housing one must earn between R1500-R7000 (which we learnt from Bromwell Street residents last time round).  Hopolang explained there needed to be an increase or a ‘band’ from R7000-R15,000 in order to capture the gap market.


January – February 2017

  1. NU gave two proposals regarding the Tafelberg site.  One with 297 social homes (with a more realistic cost of construction) and in order to cross subsidise they filtered in market-residential property which could be sold/rented to keep money flowing. The other proposal was similar with 316 social housing units.
  2. Deadline was 31st January 2017 however, the purchaser asked for extension to 15th February 2017


February – March 2017

  1. Province ignore NU’s proposals and sell the land regardless for the following reasons; Sea Point (the area where Tafelberg is located) falls outside a restructuring zone.  They need the funds from the sale of the site to build offices for the education department (first time it was ever mentioned) and the National Treasury gave them a directive that they need to use their assets
  2. NU wrote to National and City Governments who both support Sea Point being a restructuring zone.  NU also wrote to the National Treasury who stated they 100% did not say what the Province stated
  3. Every argument Province produced for not building social housing n the site was deconstructed
  4. Occupiers take over!


In the midst of all this Bromwell Street residents had their case heard in court on 30th January 2017 of the back of this NU along with residents have asked for the Judges recusal (which is being heard on 17th and 18th May 2017) due to his blatant racism during the trial.  The government are still insisting on relocating the residents to Wolwerivier, 216km from Bromwell Street. Situated in the middle of nowhere it is miles away from any schools, hospitals, police stations, public transport and any social amenities.  The human face of this is that it would mean a 6 hour round trip for the likes of Charnelle to get to work oh and yes she doesn’t drive! NU are asking for an appeal of this decision.  In the mean time the residents struggle on.

Next it was a meeting with Face and Sarita, two of the organisers at the occupied sites.  Face very obligingly answered all the questions I had (we got the work out of the way first and foremost) and then onto how they actually occupied and secured the buildings! I don’t believe I can go into details however, it’s safe to say a lot of careful planning and creativity went into organising it, I was VERY impressed!

Face explained they genuinely had intended it to be a symbolic occupy and thought they would be removed after a few days! Here they are few months later and the momentum and solidarity is growing every day. He also spoke about the risks of occupying and admitted he seen his hopes of becoming a lawyer disappear in front of him when the security discovered him in the site however, he admits it would have been worth it for the cause!  Sarita further added that this was more than just an occupation.  Here as South Africans they are 22 years into their so called “freedom” and “democracy” there is no racial integration in terms of housing and spatial apartheid is still very present geographically in Cape Town.

I left at almost 6pm to get ready for a screening of a documentary about occupation in Sao Palo which was being screened in one of the occupied buildings (which the residents have now called Cissie Goul House) and the legal team at NU were still hard at work… no rest whilst equality is still waiting!