Organisers of 'affordable housing' conference in Cape Town try to bar housing activists

2017-07-18 13:21
Protesters have previously occupied Cape Town's Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses Home. (Zukile Daniel, News24)

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

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Cape Town - A scuffle broke out between Reclaim the City protesters, conference organisers and hotel staff on Tuesday morning when the activists were barred entrance to an affordable housing conference at the swish African Pride Hotel in Cape Town.

"We are here to listen to Brett," shouted the protesters, most of whom are a familiar sight at housing-related court cases, or in the occupations of the Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nurses' Home near the Waterfront.

Also read: Reclaim the City occupiers vow to stay until demands are met

They were referring to the City's urban development mayoral committee member, Brett Herron, who was to address the conference on housing development plans. 

"We are not going anywhere," said one protester, as a woman from the Marcus Evans-organised event told them the conference was only for people who had paid to attend.

Seemingly unfamiliar with the nature of protests, she went on to tell them that they would make the event unprofessional. At one point, she tried to snatch a phone away from a reporter who was filming the scuffle, while a protester held a "stop evictions" poster aloft.

As hotel staff came to reason with them, and later barricade the door, the protesters started chanting "Brett, Brett, Brett", while Herron watched from a distance.

One by one, the protesters managed to sneak under the arms of the men and women barricading the door, and were eventually all allowed in.

"For the South Africans in the room, we recognise the right of protest and it is part of our very vibrant democracy," Herron said during his address.

"So don't worry about me. I welcome Reclaim the City and I understand their request to be heard, and I will speak to them after this presentation as well."

The protesters sat quietly in a corner, keeping themselves warm with their massive banner, as Herron called for private companies to register on the social housing provision database, so that the City could start making a dent in the anticipated 650 000 families who will need housing by 2032.

Housing demand database

The City says it is currently trying to turn around apartheid-type spatial planning, where poor black people are housed on the outskirts of the city.  

However, residents in some of the areas are being evicted to make way for private developments. They are refusing to be moved to the Wolwerivier relocation camp, about 30km north of Cape Town, or Blikkiesdorp, Delft, also outside Cape Town.

They want authorities to find them somewhere to live inside the city so that they can still stay in a community they are familiar with.

The City has so far identified 10 inner-city sites in Woodstock and Salt River for projects that will be a mix of social housing and residential units with retail space in a precinct layout.

Further details of housing plans are expected to be announced after a council meeting on July 27.

The housing demand database - or housing list - has about 320 000 people on it at present, said Herron.

He said the City was issuing a tender within the next week or two to clean up the database.

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  protests

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