• Tactics - Be flexible
  • Power adapts and activists and tactics must diversify to remain effective.

    In this case study we explain how Ndifuna Ukwazi have deployed a range of tactics including protest, lobbying, litigation and occupation, to campaign for affordable housing and land justice in Capetown.

    Reclaim The City (supported by Ndifuna Ukwazi) is a campaign which was started in 2016 to tackle spatial apartheid within inner city Cape Town by campaigning for desegregation and affordable housing developments. It began as a mobilisation to stop the sale of the Tafelberg site within the city.


    Hopolang provides a step-by-step outline of NU and Reclaim The City's response to the sale of Tafelberg Site"

    Tafelberg was the site of a previously functioning school which was earmarked for affordable housing after the Western Cape government conducted its own feasibility study in 2012 which found that 270 ‘affordable’ housing units could be built on site.  However, in 2015 it was sold to a private developer. Reclaim the City gathered 937 objections from religious leaders, city ratepayers, urban planners, academics, rights organisations and ordinary Cape Town residents across barriers of race and class. A campaign petition was signed by 4290 people in objection to the sale.  The government refused to stop the sale or release any information regarding it.

    Stop the Sale

    The City of Cape Town has been leasing this piece of land in the CBD to the neighbouring landowner which is Truworths. Now they want to sell it to them for R3.8m.WATCH: Our objection to this proposal.

    Gepostet von Ndifuna Ukwazi am Donnerstag, 5. Juli 2018


    In response, Ndifuna Ukwazi, through the Reclaim The City campaign mobilised residents in and around the area known as Sea Point (where Tafaelberg was located). They took a legal case challenging the sale to the Cape Town High Court on the grounds that it was unreasonable to sell prime land during an ongoing  housing crisis.  They stated that the sale of the land “violated constitutional obligations for citizens to access land on an equitable basis.”  Alongside this Ndifuna Ukwazi partnered with social housing and architecture experts to develop their own feasibility study which showed that 341 housing units were possible on the site. Community members in Sea Point put forward their own submission explaining why they supported social housing on the site.  Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim The City used legislation and effective social and traditional media to discredit the governments position by exposing numerous inconsistencies within the ‘official’ feasibility study.

    The campaign used tactics such as protests effectively with residents and community groups writing messages in chalk on pavements in the affluent areas of the city. Sit ins and blockades of Government buildings were used as disruption techniques in order to get the government to overturn the decision.  As the homeless families of Sea Point stated; “if we are good enough to work in your houses and look after your children in the area we should be good enough to live in it”.  The Campaign ultimately resulted in the sale being halted in May 2016. Families then pursued the goal of housing development with the support of Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim The City.

    We're outside Leeuwenhof to wake up Helen Zille. Today we go to court to #StopTheSale. We say "You can't lead this struggle!"

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Donnerstag, 4. Mai 2017

    [WATCH] Blockade at WC Public WorksLast week, Province promised to release the feasibility report on Social Housing for the Tafelberg site. It failed to do so and refused to explain. Unacceptable. Sea Point's workers have waited long enough. Release the report and #StopTheSale. We'll be back!

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Dienstag, 15. November 2016


    However, in March 2017 the demonstrable need for the Tafelberg site to be used for social housing was repudiated by government. The private sale was permitted despite widespread protests, pickets and numerous proposals to the Cabinet.

    "Interview with Nkosikhona explains how the occupation came about and some of the tactics used"

    In the days that followed families and supporters decided occupied the buildings in Tafelberg as well as an abandoned hospital in the Woodstock area within inner city Cape Town.

    Small Victories

    Strategy and Tactics of NU in campaigning

    September 2017 saw some positive movement in the campaign as the Mayor of the City was forced to announce  a proposal for reasonable low income housing in the inner-city neighbourhood of Woodstock (at the time of writing no housing was yet announced for Tafelberg).  The City also halted the extension of Wolwerivier which families described as a ‘relocation camp’. These developments were built by government many miles from everyday life. they were designed on the extreme peripheries of Cape Town and other big cities, as ‘short term’ housing solutions for people forcibly relocated from informal settlements that were demolished by government. Many residents we met had been in this “short term’ housing for more than three years.  The City recognised the inhumanity of the ‘relocation camp’ and halted the development of 4500 additional units of the ‘better located housing’ in response to the escalating actions of the campaigning families.

    We took part in the occupations in May 2017 to interview residents and supporters occupying the sites. They explained that the occupations were initially intended to be symbolic, however they gathered momentum and galvanised support and continue to this day. According to the residents the occupations tactic will continue until government provide what they have promised, affordable inner city housing. These kind of actions have rippled through the power of finance and politics not just in the Western Cape but across south Africa. The new President of South Africa, Cyril Rampahosa campaigned on a platform arguing that land must expropriated for the use of the people.

    [LIVE] From the occupiers – Land for People Not for Profit!They fight for all of us. All supporters to Helen Bowden Nurses Home in Green Point right now! We will resist every attempt at breaking our occupation.

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Sonntag, 26. März 2017

    We also interviewed the Bromwell Street residents who were facing eviction from private landlords seeking to demolish their homes and gentrify the Woodstock Hub area. The families faced forced relocation to Wolwerivier.

    [DRONE FOOTAGE] The desolation at Wolwerivier that the City of…

    [DRONE FOOTAGE] The desolation at Wolwerivier that the City of Cape Town doesn't want you to see!#StandWithBromwell

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Montag, 30. Januar 2017

    Organisers and legal representatives from Ndifuna Ukwazi worked with residents to develop their campaign to halt the evictions and secure accommodation. They provided ongoing supplies, development and training to residents who in turn organised communities to lead occupations, legal cases and negotiations with government.

    Supplies arrive at Reclaimed Helen Bowden #OccupyItAll

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Montag, 27. März 2017

    You can learn more about Ndifuna Ukwazi, Reclaim the City, The Bromwell Street Residents and more by listening to the interviews carried out on location in the PEOPLE section of this site.


    Context of Ndifuna Ukwazi

    Five decades ago on 11 September 1966, the South African National Party declared District Six in Capetown a “whites only” area under the group areas act – an Apartheid Law. Over the next two decades, 70 000 people were forcibly and violently removed from District Six to makeshift ghettos, like Mitchells Plain, Manenberg and Hanover Park, designed and built by the Apartheid régime. In Cape Town there were forty-two areas where this policy of forced removal based on race was implemented.

    During Apartheid, non whites were excluded from housing opportunities near the city and confined to ‘townships’ and hostels on the urban periphery.

    Today, the unchallenged legacy of the colonial/Apartheid era has normalised racialised urban planning and led to an increase in spatial segregation under the post-apartheid governments in Cape Town.

    Modern Spatial Injustice

    "It's not about Black & White thing! It's about what you have if you have a six figure bank balance you are…"Today we see our history repeating itself, today's spatial injustice is highly influenced by capitalism and gentrification.

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Dienstag, 8. Mai 2018

    Since 1994, the profit value of well-located land and property has increased exponentially in Cape Town. Despite progressive legislation and policy requiring redress and inclusion, governments (national, provincial and local) have followed a de facto policy of asset stripping to build public or social housing on the extreme periphery of the city as opposed to the urban heart and city centre.

    This spatial segregation, exclusion and discrimination is a direct result of government policy and an unregulated market with roots in the racist policies of Apartheid. The lack of any government interventions to remedy spatial segregation means that Cape Town remains one of the most segregated cities in the world based on race. Since the formal end of Apartheid Capetown has grown into a  city of Billionaires where Coloured and Black South Africans live on the extremes in the townships of Langa, Nyanga, Guguletu, Khayelitsha, Hanover Park and Mitchells Plain. Here millions of people risk disease and death with limited access to the opportunities, good public services and safety which resident of Capetown enjoy

    Addressing Cape Town’s spatial inequality can be achieved by protecting and expanding access to well-located affordable housing through public and private developments. This will require that the City and Province meet their obligations to stop selling public land and build or subsidise affordable well located housing within the centre of Cape Town. This is what Ndifuna Ukwazi are campaigning for on a daily basis with homeless families.

    The Tafelberg site is perfect for affordable housing! Everything you need to know in one click. #StopTheSale

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Donnerstag, 26. Mai 2016


    Ndifuna Ukwazi is an activist organisation and law centre that combines movement building, research and litigation in campaigns to advance urban land justice in Cape Town.

    Ndifuna Ukwazi work to counter the powerful interests, poor policies and regressive ideas that replicate spatial apartheid, poverty and inequality in Cape Town.

    Ndifuna Ukwazi develop campaigns with residents and homeless families to compel government action to build new affordable housing, to regulate land use and the private sector, to keep rents low and to defend the rights and security of tenure of poor and working-class people who live in rental housing and are being forced out of the city because of rising rents, gentrification and unfair rental practices.

    Ndifuna Ukwazi organise to bring poor and working class people back into the city, not only to redress land dispossession and honour those who endured the forced removals under colonialism and apartheid, but to catalyse the transformation of the City of Cape Town as the South African Constitution envisions; into a sustainable environment and an inclusive economy.


    Ndifuna Ukwazi is an organisation with board, director and staff  which emerged from a movement of organisations starting with the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education and the Social Justice Coalition. It is funded by fundraising and philanthropy.

    The campaigns developed by Ndifuna Ukwazi such as Reclaim the City are lead by experienced community organisers and litigators who convene, train and develop affected groups such as homeless families and their allies in campaigns.



    Strategy and Tactics

    Ndifuna Ukwazi help build movements and organise counter power – NU is part of Reclaim the City, a social movement of tenants and workers who believe it is time to take the struggle for land and housing to the centre of the city, to the people who should live there, to the heart of power and to the land that matters. The movement has tapped into a deep sense of injustice in the city about the current model of exclusionary development. Reclaim the City currently has two chapters in the inner city and surrounds.

    Sea Point residents meeting: Social Housing on Tafelberg

    Missed last night's residents' meeting in Sea Point. Here's a clip to get a feeling for atmosphere and what was said.#Tafelberg270

    Gepostet von Ndifuna Ukwazi am Freitag, 20. Januar 2017

    NU help take on strategic litigation and provide access to legal support and advice – The NU Law Centre focuses on strategic and high impact litigation that has the potential to lead to systemic change that will advance equitable access to land and the right to housing. As activist lawyers they support their members through legal advice and education, as well as offering solidarity in resisting intimidation, unlawful arrest and attempts to limit freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

    Our attorney Chriscy Blouws gives a summary of today's Bromwell Street hearing:

    Gepostet von Ndifuna Ukwazi am Dienstag, 12. September 2017

    NU investigative research, advocacy & popular education – NU conducts investigative research and advocacy to provide a strong evidence base to give leverage in campaigns. NU are able to secure access to information that helps to tell what is happening inside government and hold public officials and politicians accountable. NU analyse data to help provide answers to systemic problems. And help to synthesise and summarise policy and good practice to generate models and reports on what is possible.

    Reclaim the City – Alternative Feasibility Study

    "So why can't we have this type of housing project on this piece of land? What stop us? There is nothing. It's totally feasible. It is just government will" – Malcolm McCarthy at the alternative feasibility study on the Tafelberg Site.

    Gepostet von Reclaim the City am Montag, 4. April 2016


    NU tell stories that matter – NU produce compelling content that spreads the news, and holds the state and private sector to account. NU aims to disarm the powerful discourses and rhetoric that the state and private sector use to condemn and silence resistance by telling the stories and amplifying the experiences of poor and working-class people.