Bitter fight for a slice of Sea Point
Cape Town suburb’s poorer residents demand that premier reverts to previous undertaking to develop low-cost housing in up-market suburb
Poor residents of the expensive Cape Town suburb of Sea Point have given Western Cape Premier Helen Zille an ultimatum to either give in to their demands or they will illegaly occupy land the province sold to private property developers. The residents, who took to the street on Thursday, say Zille has had plenty of time to consider their plight and if she does not respond positively within 30 days, they will move into the Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point and build shacks around it.
The fight is over the fact that there is virtually no housing for poor people in Cape Town’s pricey inner city and workers on the city’s outskirts have to spend a lot of time and money travelling to work each day. Or, like the suburb’s domestic workers, they have to live in apartheid-style servants’ quarters away from their families.
Domestic worker and Reclaim the City Campaign organiser Thandeka Sisusa told City Press the provincial government left them no choice. “We have been pleading with government to stop the sale of Tafelberg site, but it appears our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. They are forcing us to live in squalid conditions while they have sold the land that was earmarked for our houses to the highest bidder.”
Tensions between Sea Point residents and the provincial government began in January, when the province announced the sale of the Tafelberg Remedial School site to a private developer. The site was initially earmarked for a mixed-use development, including lowcost housing, which would have seen hundreds of poor residents from Sea Point benefit.
The residents came together after the announcement and decided to fight against the sale. In April they approached the Western Cape High Court, asking it to stop the sale on the basis that the provincial government failed to gather enough public comment.
Last month, the court ruled in residents’ favour and ordered the sale to be suspended to allow residents three weeks to make submissions.
The public comment period lapsed on Thursday, the day supporters of the Reclaim the City Campaign handed over their objections, together with a petition signed by 4 290 people, to Zille’s office. They gave Zille 30 days to respond.
“All we are expecting from the premier is a positive response. We were told that houses were going to be built for us and our families on that land; now they sold the land where it was supposed to be built? Zille is well aware of the fact that we live like slaves in Sea Point, yet we are told that we are free in this democratic country,” said Sisusa.
“The servants’ quarters we currently live in are no different from unkempt dormitories. To make matters worse, we live under strict curfews and we are not allowed to have visitors, yet we are married women and men with families,” she said.
Sisusa (37), who has lived in a single room in Sea Point for 24 years, says the provincial government’s decision to sell Tafelberg took them back to the apartheid years.
“We have experienced racism and resistance from wealthy people in Sea Point and our city, who refuse to accept that working class black people also have a right to stay in beautiful and well-located areas. When we went to the promenade to draw a chalk mural in support of an inclusive city, the City of Cape Town sent Metro Police officers to silence and intimidate us.”
In spite of this, she said: “We have proved that a majority of Capetonians from all different backgrounds, races and income brackets stand united in the call for a desegregated city.”
HEAR US Protesters march in Sea Point on Thursday. Inset: Campaign organiser Thandeka Sisusa
PRIME PROPERTY Members of the Reclaim the City Campaign took to the street this week to protest the proposed sale of the Tafelberg Remedial School (on left side of the road) in Sea Point, Cape Town, to a private developer