Collective occupying Camps Bay Airbnb given check-out deadline

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Camps Bay (Jenni Evans, News24)
Camps Bay (Jenni Evans, News24)
Jenni Evans
  • The LGBTQI+ collective which occupied an Airbnb property in Camps Bay has until Thursday to check out. 
  • The property manager said they understand their cause, but cannot facilitate or negotiate an extension. 
  • The group reiterated its request to speak directly to the owner about its vision to create a safe space.

A LGBTQI+ collective has until 17:00 on Thursday to leave an Airbnb house it has occupied in Camps Bay.

Turnkey365, which is the company managing the property for the owner, pleaded with the group to be out by then to make way for guests arriving on Friday. 

"The guise under which the guests secured the booking has not only been dishonest, but their 'indefinite' occupancy and refusal to allow staff into the property has led many staff unable to perform their duties, resulting in a further compromise on their livelihoods and ability to support their families," Turnkey365's managing director, Gaby van Wyk, said in a statement.

She called the action a setback for the small enterprise which is attempting to get the business back on track after the Covid-19 lockdown.

The hospitality industry is among businesses which could not operate during the more stringent phases of the lockdown to manage Covid-19 cases.

"It is in this respect, and with a fervent endeavour to protect our staff and their subsequent families and livelihoods, that Turnkey365 requests the current guests to vacate the property in Camps Bay by 24 September 2020 at 17:00 and no later, in order to accommodate an upcoming reservation starting 25 September 2020."

The request comes ahead of the Heritage Day public holiday on Thursday, and a long weekend for some.

READ | Camps Bay Airbnb taken over by Cape Town group seeking safe space

Van Wyk said the company understood and respected the group's cause, but was not in a position to negotiate or facilitate its stay any longer.

She added the stay would have a severe impact on employees who were as vulnerable as the #weseeyou group which was currently occupying the house.

Van Wyk denied a claim the group had threatened to call the police as reported in one publication, saying communication had been amicable. 

"We have just come out of a horrible six months," she said of the affect the Covid-19 shutdown had on the business of managing properties. 

Some property owners had already called to say they were spooked by the occupation, and were wondering whether it was safe to rent to South African guests. 

Colleague Philip Meyer said the hospitality industry in Cape Town had been struggling as far back as the drought, followed by loadshedding, and now had to recover from losses caused by the shutdowns. 

He added theirs was a small enterprise, not a foreign-owned company as suggested. 

Meyer said it had already paid the salaries of 14 domestic workers throughout the lockdown, and employed mostly women from diverse backgrounds.

The owner of the occupied house also relied on the rental income and did not have a portfolio of properties as assumed, he added.

We are pleading with them to also see our case and the lives they are impacting.

Turnkey365 would not release the owner's identity, but said the group had paid around R15 000 when they booked a family stay.

Kelly-Lee Koopman, who is part of the collective, said on Wednesday by text they were exhausted and could not receive News24 for a visit immediately.

They also did not want to disclose the location.

However, if asked whether they would leave as requested, she said they would like to speak directly to the owner of the property. 

They have also reached out to the incoming guests via Facebook to speak to them about the situation.

The collective, under the umbrella of LGBTQI+ activists and artists, said they would like to discuss their vision of turning the property into a place of healing and safety, through care and art.

They booked a short stay at the house by raising funds from friends, family and supporters to gain entrance to the property to highlight their cause.

It includes providing a safe haven for people who have brutalised through eviction or non-acceptance of their gender.

They also want to highlight the generational accumulation of wealth by some along the Atlantic Seaboard compared with the dispossession and inequality brought on to others over the centuries.

In an update on the #weseeyou Facebook page, they said: "Our labour has been extracted throughout colonisation, slavery, apartheid and in the present moment.

"Camps Bay as an area particularly carries a highly contentious and deeply painful history. Indigenous people here were forcibly removed from their vast grazing land and placed in a settlement at Oudekraal where they were met with violence and death via measles and smallpox.

"Perilous mountain roads here were built using unpaid prison labour, often by mentally ill prisoners. There is no memorialisation of this in the area. 

"Many of the properties in the area are listed as national heritage sites, but are used for profit and are completely inaccessible, even though these are our painful histories.

"Before you say that land belongs to those who have 'worked for it' or 'earned it', consider that we have worked, and we keep working. How much more do we need to labour before we can have dignified space and time to rest?"

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