‘We will stay until our demands are met’

Activists continue to occupy two buildings, including Helen Bowden Nurses home, in a demand for affordable housing.

Woodstock Hospital has been renamed Cissie Gool House, in honour of Zainunnisa “Cissie” Gool, by activists who say they will continue to occupy buildings until their demands are met.

They have also occupied Helen Bowden Nurses Home, in Granger Bay, which has been dubbed Ahmed Kathrada House.

Reclaim the City occupied the two buildings last week in response to the provincial government’s decision to sell the Tafelberg School site to a private school instead of using it for affordable housing (“Reclaim occupy buildings”, Atlantic Sun, March 30).

Premier Helen Zille’s spokesman, Michael Mpofu, said the occupation was a self-serving protest, and the organisation had failed to be honest with the public about affordable housing projects in the pipeline.

“The Western Cape government has designated affordable housing as a strategic priority. Reclaim the City is well aware of this and of the value of cabinet’s affordable housing announcement for the Waterfront and Woodstock properties. This is why they are scrambling to picket at these sites.

“They want to claim credit for a decision already taken. Cabinet’s announcement of affordable housing for large Waterfront and Woodstock properties is an inconvenience for Reclaim the City,” said Mr Mpofu.

Department of Transport and Public Works spokesman Byron la Hoe said that provincial cabinet had issued instructions for affordable housing to be developed on the old Woodstock Hospital site, in whole or part.

“This is the only decision that has been taken regarding this property. Cabinet awaits a business plan in this regard,” said Mr La Hoe.

Reclaim the City supporter and long-time activist Zackie Achmat said it was important for people to put their bodies on the line for what they believed in.

If the issue of spatial inequality was continuously ignored, then the protests would only increase, he warned.

“People must be prepared to be arrested,” said Mr Achmat.

“Property developers, local government must realise that if the problem of spatial inequality is ignored then the protests will increase to the tens of thousands.”

The occupation movement was part of Reclaim the City’s “robust” response to the province’s decision to sell the Tafelberg site in Sea Point.

Supporters of the campaign are demanding government announce timelines for the establishment of affordable housing at both sites.

They are also calling for the sale of the contested Tafelberg site in Sea Point to be reversed and that it be used for affordable housing instead.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town announced last week that it was willing to declare Cape Town a restructuring zone to accommodate affordable housing. The City said it had informed both provincial and national governments of its intentions.

In a statement last week, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said: “There are ample opportunities for affordable housing in many areas across the metro, and the development and availability of affordable rental accommodation in central areas of the city must play a key role in the future development of Cape Town.

“Currently, however, the City cannot get access to social housing grants from national government unless suitable land is located within a restructuring zone.”

Mr Herron added: “The City’s restructuring zones were approved in 2010 after the promulgation of the Social Housing Act. There is currently some uncertainty as to whether ‘central business district and surrounds’ include areas like Sea Point, for example.

“In an effort to remove any uncertainty, we are proposing to extend our restructuring zones, subject to the Western Cape government and the national minister’s approval, so that no area is excluded in future.

“This will be initiated through the City’s Spatial Development Framework, Integrated Development Plan, and Built Environment Performance Plan processes. Once completed, it will enable the City to develop any suitable land within the city’s boundaries for affordable housing opportunities.”

Should this take place, it would mean that there could eventually be affordable housing at sites like Tafelberg.

“The City is committed to actively redressing and reversing the spatial legacy of apartheid planning and has always considered
all centrally located areas (such as the central business districts and surrounds) as well as zones along key transport routes to be restructuring zones that are eligible for affordable housing,” said Mr Herron.

In response, provincial government said it “welcomed” the announcement by the City.