‘We also need a proper place in the sun’

CityPress - - News -

Domestic worker Mag­dalena Sam­boer has lived in Sea Point for 40 years, 30 of those as a domestic worker for her cur­rent em­ployer.

“When I started work­ing here the room was rot­ten, I had to take out the car­pet. When they ren­o­vated peo­ple’s houses I had to ask them to give me some­thing to put in there.

“As old as I am, I have to share a bath­room. We are only al­lowed one tub of wa­ter and have to use it for ev­ery­thing – from bathing to wash­ing your hair.

“We are not al­lowed to have vis­i­tors. As a domestic worker, you have to do ev­ery­thing [for your em­ployer] but the mo­ment you com­plain about the liv­ing con­di­tions, they get up­set.

“If they find out that I’m sup­port­ing the cam­paign to stop the sale of Tafel­berg, they will do ev­ery­thing in their power to get rid of me.

“But they have to un­der­stand that I’m not giv­ing up. I In a let­ter to Western Cape Premier He­len Zille this week, ar­chi­tect Ilze Wolff, and her hus­band and busi­ness part­ner Hein­rich Wolff, ar­gued why Cape Town needs to change:

At the launch of the Re­claim the City cam­paign, three other sites were iden­ti­fied: the Al­fred Street Com­plex, Top Yard and He­len Bow­den Nurses Home next to the V&A Water­front. The four sites all have the same thing in com­mon: they are lo­cated within a rich net­work of op­por­tu­nity that is the cen­tral city.

Other parts of the city, such as the apartheid res­i­den­tial sub­urbs, do not of­fer a den­sity of net­works of op­por­tu­nity that are cur­rently avail­able in the cen­tral city. This in­cludes good pub­lic trans­port, well-lo­cated health­care fa­cil­i­ties, cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, leisure ac­tiv­i­ties, pub­lic spa­ces, and eco­nomic and com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties. Added to this kind of den­sity of ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture is the prox­im­ity to the sea and the moun­tain, spa­ces of con­tem­pla­tion, spa­ces of dream­ing. The lo­ca­tion of set­tle­ment near this kind of spec­tac­u­lar na­ture is a hu­man de­sire and shared ben­e­fit that can­not be dis­re­garded.

Cur­rently, the site has been sold to pri­vate de­vel­op­ers who do not have the in­ten­tion of his­toric re­dress that is re­quired for eq­ui­table spa­tial jus­tice. The sale is sup­ported and ve­he­mently de­fended by the Sea Point, Bantry Bay and Fres­naye Ratepay­ers’ and Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which has vo­calised in the me­dia its strong op­po­si­tion to cor­rect­ing his­toric spa­tial in­jus­tices and vi­o­lent claims to land in Sea Point.

Many mem­bers are white men, iron­i­cally speak­ing for the con­tin­ued ex­clu­sion of black women and chil­dren; for the con­tin­ued ex­clu­sion of moth­ers who clean the homes of rich Sea Point res­i­dents. The past lives in the present in the most pow­er­ful ways. Un­jus­ti­fied his­toric claims to de­sir­able space, apartheid and sub­se­quent forced re­movals have given a racial, pa­tri­ar­chal and im­pe­ri­al­ist di­men­sion to the mod­ern de­vel­op­ment of Cape Town.

Tafel­berg is pub­lic land and has the op­por­tu­nity to re­dress his­toric spa­tial violence. Tafel­berg presents gov­ern­ment with a rare op­por­tu­nity for spa­tial jus­tice. This po­ten­tial, amid a dom­i­nant cul­ture of land ac­qui­si­tion for pri­vate gain, is an in­valu­able and frag­ile op­por­tu­nity for so­cial jus­tice, us­ing space to set up net­works of care, re­spect, dig­nity and in­clu­sion.

Sell­ing and pri­vatis­ing pub­lic land is an op­por­tu­nity lost. It is a dis­posal of the po­ten­tial to re­dress his­toric spa­tial in­jus­tices and thus a vi­o­lent con­tin­u­a­tion of the racialised, pa­tri­ar­chal im­pe­ri­al­ist project of the past. won’t be kicked out of my work­place and chucked out on the street be­cause I have no place to go. “I’m also hu­man. Just be­cause I’m there to do their dirty work, to help them to build their em­pire, it does not mean that I am less hu­man or that I de­serve less re­spect. “We also need a proper place in the sun, a place we can call home. We are not an­i­mals. “They do not want my chil­dren here. Be­cause ev­ery five min­utes they say to me: ‘your chil­dren this and your fam­ily that’. My chil­dren, I had to give them up when they were small, like dogs. “They had to go and live with other peo­ple far away, be­cause they were not al­lowed to live with me. I don’t have them with me and I am not a healthy per­son. “If any­thing hap­pens to me, where must I go? Who must I call? I have no one. It is not fair to­wards the domestic work­ers.”


Domestic Mag­dalena Sam­boer

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