Housing movement occupies Cape Town government building

Cape Town - Activists wanting the controversial Tafelberg Remedial School site in Sea Point converted into affordable housing, on Tuesday staged a sit-in at a provincial government office.

Members of the organisation Reclaim the City blocked the entrance to the Public Works offices in Dorp Street on Tuesday afternoon.

They wanted a feasibility study on social housing on the site, which they say was promised to them last week.

Among those blocking the entrance to the offices was activist Zackie Achmat.

Reclaim the City spokesperson Elizabeth Gqoboka told News24 that they resorted to the sit-in after they were made to wait for two hours to see a department director able to give them answers.

“All we wanted was an update on the report, just feedback,” she said.

“We waited for two hours and nobody attended to us. We then decided to close the reception desk until someone addressed us.”

Gqoboka said the official communicated with them through security staff and refused to come down to speak to them.

“At first they lied to us, saying he was not in the building. But he was there,” she insisted.

Twelve members then sat at the entrance, barring anyone from coming in or going out. 

“While we were sitting there, the security officers asked us to vacate, but we resisted. They asked us what we wanted and we told them we wanted an explanation on the status of the study. We demanded this, and they went upstairs, to where the official was. But he wouldn’t talk to us.”

The group eventually left after police were called to the scene.

Frustrated

“They said if we don’t move, we would be arrested. We left, but we are frustrated. Are they hiding something from us?” she asked.

The organisation would not back down, she warned.

“We will mobilise and come back within the week until there are answers.” 

According to Reclaim the City’s website, the 1.7 hectare Tafelberg Remedial School site belonged to the provincial government. The Western Cape department of transport and public works sold Tafelberg to a private entity in late 2015.

“(This) in spite of a request from Western Cape Department of Human Settlements that it be reserved for affordable housing, and a government supported feasibility study which concluded that the site was suitable for a social housing development of up to 341 affordable residential units.”

In May, the matter reached a turning point when the Western Cape High Court ordered that the sale of the site to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million be halted and that the provincial government open a public participation process.

According to the website, on July 29 the provincial cabinet asked for a new feasibility study on the use of the site for social housing.

“It needs this to make an informed decision on the proposed sale of the land,” it said.

The organisation wanted this study.


Reclaim the City supporters Tyronne McCrindle, Luyanda Mtamzeli, Elizabeth Gqoboka, Thozama Adonisi and Zackie Achmat blocked the entrance of the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works. (Daneel Knoetze)

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