On Friday 14th August, as the weather forecasts were predicting the bitterly cold and wet weather that hit Cape Town that weekend, the City of Cape Town demolished the homes of people living in Kensington and Factreton. Many of them were backyard dwellers, and their shacks were not new, as the City claimed; they had been there for about ten years. The KenFac Ratepayers’ organisation says that some of those families have been on waiting lists for houses for 50 years, but in that area not one brick has been delivered.
Yet Mayor Dan Plato says that Cape Town is under siege by people like these, who are derailing the housing plans. One might ask, what housing plans, after 50 years? It is surely time for such a “plan” to be drastically reviewed. In the article in the Daily Maverick, Clark, Hazell and Mohapi quite rightly discredit this war-like language that the City uses against its own citizens. These “land-invaders” are true South Africans, unlike many of the Johnny-come-latelys that want prime land in Cape Town. Who is the invader? The presence of people in these shacks is not evidence of their criminality, but of how long and how badly they have been neglected. Add to this the shocking fact that the city was R36.8 million for informal settlements, which it simply did not spend last year, according to Sandra on STOP COCT.
It seems the City has a split personality, because while JP Smith (ironically leading the Safety and Security committee) and Malusi Booi (Human Settlements – or should that be Inhuman Uprooting?) as the mayor’s hired guns were planning this callous eviction, other departments had been talking to the same residents about laying on a water supply. When the mayor was approached about the plight of the people on Friday, he replied that there was nothing he could do because it was “not a disaster.” His aggressive vocabulary and responses like these encourage gullible Capetonians to harden their hearts to this artificially created disaster, for disaster it is. On Saturday he was approached again and said that none of the building materials that had been confiscated would be returned. They could not even get their own sheets of corrugated iron and plastic, poles and doors back as they scrambled to find shelter. However you try to camouflage it, this is an act of sheer malice.
In 1996 the Constitutional Court reiterated that people being moved had to be treated with “dignity and respect.” Instead, Mayor Plato adopted the “blame the victim” attitude of callous rapists, with his war-like accusations.
It was the community that stepped in. There were donations of food, blankets and clothing from Kensington, Factreton and Pinelands, and Miles October accommodated all the children in his Play Sport for Life offices. The local mosque delivered 100 punnets of food from a family in 18th Avenue. Two of the three Solidarity kitchens that were opened in response to the Covid-19 crisis served fish and pasta on Friday night, and soup on Saturday. A new temporary kitchen has been set up to meet this crisis. Bless their hearts; but it is the City that should be helping its citizens to be warm, safe and fed. We hear of plans for world class improvements to the Waterfront costing billions, but the basic rights of the oldest Capetonians are irresponsibly trampled on.
We want to be proud of our city. Not only of its beauty and impressive developments, but of its morality, of its methods for correcting historic injustices. What happened on 14 August was an example of the opposite – shameless new injustices. There is something rotten, or maybe quite schizophrenic, in the City of Cape Town.
2017 March by residents of Factreton and Kensington