Reclaim the City occupiers vow to stay until demands are met

2017-03-27 11:23
Protesters have occupied Cape Town's Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses Home. (Zukile Daniel, News24)

Protesters have occupied Cape Town's Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses Home. (Zukile Daniel, News24)

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Cape Town - Protesters who have occupied Cape Town's Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses Home will not move until the sale of the Tafelberg site in Sea Point is reversed, and the City of Cape Town provides a real plan to meet their housing needs.

"If the police try to remove us, they will be publicly shamed," a protester at the 30-year-old nurses' home, near the V&A Waterfront, told News24 on Monday.

The protesters, who are part of Reclaim the City, have opted to speak as a collective and not as individuals.

The stark cement construction of the Helen Bowden Nurses Home was described by the city as the "Jewel of Granger Bay", according to documents prepared for a regeneration programme investor conference in 2014.

On Monday, the protester said the units were in relatively good condition and just needed to be cleaned a little for their occupation.

Affordable urban housing

Last week, the Western Cape provincial government said it had told the City of Cape Town that any agreement regarding the redevelopment of the Helen Bowden and Woodstock sites had to include cross-subsidisation of affordable housing units.

However, this would not apply to the Tafelberg site in Sea Point.

This has angered Reclaim the City, which lobbies for the release or expropriation of land by the city so houses for the less monied can be bought, or for old vacant sites such as the hospital or nurses' home to be turned into affordable housing.

The group opposes urban developers who buy up old properties and turn them into desirable units for mid- to upper-income renters or buyers.

They are currently waiting for judgment in an application relating to the private sale of a row of houses in Bromwell Street, Woodstock.

The residents there have refused to move to the city's transit camp in Wolwerivier, north of Table View, saying it is too isolated to find work or schools for their children.

In another application, the city has been asked to buy the private land the Marikana informal settlement is on, because there are now too many people living there to forcibly remove them all.

Forced evictions

Judgment is still awaited on that case.

"We are staying here until our demands are taken seriously, or, if needs be, an eviction order," the protester at Helen Bowden said.

If it comes to that, they have lawyers on standby to help them fight it.

Across town, at the old Woodstock Hospital, a protester said they moved in on Saturday. They managed to find an electrical point and had made arrangements for water.

"We've decided that no, we've had it," said the protester at the abandoned hospital, which is rented out as a film location.

In a preface to their letter of demand, the occupiers said blacks and coloureds are still experiencing the forced evictions that their parents and grandparents went through during apartheid. This time it is driven by urban redevelopment.

They are being moved out to make way for places they cannot afford and relocated to informal settlements in Blikkiesdorp, Wolwerivier and Marikana.

Their demands are:

  • That the city stop the sale of the Tafelberg site;
  • That they are given a timeline for plans for affordable housing at the Woodstock, Helen Bowden and other sites;
  • That the staff guarding the sites they are occupying are not fired;
  • That the city regulates private sector housing, which has become unaffordable, and that it protect tenants and evictees;
  • Evictees want temporary accommodation in the communities they were living in before they were evicted;
  • People living in informal settlements want security of tenure, and upgrades to the settlements;
  • That no more land is sold to private developers in District Six and that the land is given back to former residents whose families were forcibly removed, and to the poor;
  • Pensioners, the homeless and immigrants should be included in government housing programmes;
  • The government must talk to people who face forcible removal, instead of just relocating them.
Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  protests

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