LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Let’s not euphemise building hi-jacking

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Reclaim the City activists door stop Mayoral Committee member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi in Long Street.
Reclaim the City activists door stop Mayoral Committee member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi in Long Street.
Marvin Charles

Malusi Booi writes in response to an article written published on News24 following research published by Ndifuna Ukwazi around social housing delays, saying it was taken aback by the organisation's hypocrisy. 

The City of Cape Town is taken aback by Ndifuna Ukwazi’s hypocrisy in publishing a research report about purported social housing delays, whereas this organisation’s direct actions are in fact a primary delay to two flagship central Cape Town projects [Housing activists call on City to release promised land for affordable housing’, News24, 12 August].

The City continues to make progress on its 2000-unit strong central Cape Town social housing pipeline. This is despite the obstacles of inadequate national grant funding, legislative red tape, and the major obstacle of two orchestrated building hi-jackings, which in our view cannot be euphemised as these buildings having been "occupied by activists".

This portrayal of what occurred in March 2017 can only be suited to those with a disregard for the rule of law, and does not stand up to the facts behind how the buildings were hi-jacked – a well-known phenomenon in Gauteng that we must actively prevent in Cape Town for the sake of the development goals of our city.

The facts are as follows:

In March 2017, in the days following government’s announcement that social housing was to be developed at two well-located properties, a civil grouping - Ndifuna Ukwazi, - called on supporters to hi-jack two buildings in central Cape Town under their Reclaim the City banner.

Reclaim the City is not a "social movement" as is often claimed. At the time of launching the campaign, Ndifuna Ukwazi designed the Reclaim the City Constitution to include an explicit intent to invade property, with a clear objective to "support the expropriation of property which aligns with the vision, objectives, principles, and values of Reclaim the City".

For four years, this illegal act has stalled social housing developments at both the City-owned Woodstock Hospital site, one of our largest projects in central Cape Town, as well as the Helen Bowden property near the V&A Waterfront, owned by the Western Cape Government (WCG).  

The building hi-jacking was followed by subsequent calls for financial contributions to "sustain and build" the illegal occupation.

What was initially claimed by Ndifuna Ukwazi to be a "symbolic" occupation, has spiralled out of control. In October 2018, the Western Cape High Court granted an order interdicting and restraining Reclaim the City from "inciting persons to enter or be upon the property for the purpose of unlawfully occupying or invading". The City is now obliged to proceed with litigation to ensure that the property is restored to it as the lawful owner.

There can be no doubt that Reclaim the City’s constitution is out of step with the South African Constitution, and the rule of law in general. The outcome of the building hijackings was to derail constitutional social housing development and fair allocation of opportunities.  

Manufacturing an illegal occupation cannot be equated with activism, and building hijacking cannot be condoned under any circumstances.

In South Africa we need to respect and uphold the rule of law or we are doomed.

- Councillor Malusi Booi is Cape Town's Mayoral Committee member for Human Settlements



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