APARTHEID may have been abolished in South Africa nearly 30 years ago but its legacy is causing problems.

Cape Town is currently the focus of an organised campaign against “spatial apartheid” with protesters occupying a hospital and nurses’ home. They are desperate for much-needed – and often promised – affordable housing as rising property prices are pushing non-whites out to crime-ridden enclaves on the city’s outskirts, miles from centres of employment and civic amenities.

“We’re into our second month now,” said occupier Sheila Madikane. “We don’t get rest time, because we are always between meetings, work, the occupation and our homes – if we have them. Even tonight, I have to go back to my children because the electricity has run out. It’s all part of the struggle.”

With average house prices in Cape Town beyond the reach of many, working-class households are forced to rent and the restrictions of apartheid are beginning to be replicated with those who have managed to escape the poverty of the townships being pushed back because of the lack of affordable housing in better located areas.


THE protest began in March after the Western Cape government refused to honour a previous commitment to develop social housing on the nearby Tafelberg building at Sea Point.

Although the site was declared a good location for social housing five years ago, it was agreed to use the profits from the Tafelberg land sale to finish upgrading a new head office for the provincial government’s education department.

The decision was met by outrage from the Reclaim The City campaign who said it was “unjust and an insult to black and working-class people throughout Cape Town who are the vast majority of residents”.

Protesters are occupying Helen Bowden nurses’ home behind Somerset Hospital where large banners call for an end to segregation. The occupiers say the government has “missed a critical opportunity” to create affordable housing in the inner city.

“They have laid bare their intention to capitalise from our public assets at all costs in the face of considerable public opposition,” a spokesman said. “They have shown a deep contempt for the principle of using public land to reverse apartheid spacial planning.”


THE campaigners are refusing to accept the Tafelberg sale and are demanding government commitments to create social housing from similar buildings in Cape Town.

They are also occupying Woodstock Hospital, which has been earmarked for social housing. They have yet to convince the Western Cape premier, Helen Zille, of the centre-right Democratic Alliance. She recently caused controversy with tweets that suggested colonialism had benefited South Africa.

However it is hard to dispute the occupiers’ claim that the housing situation is at crisis point.

Like much of the city centre, Sea Point was designated whites-only during apartheid and is now one of the most desirable and affluent parts of the city. For a while, it became more diverse, with the racial mix changing, but now it is well on the way to becoming a whites-only enclave again.

Non-whites claim they are deliberately being forced out.

“Sea Point has changed a lot.

Now it’s become a place for people to go shopping and go out to restaurants,” Madikane said, adding that non-whites faced forced evictions.


MADIKANE is fighting in court against being evicted from her home of 14 years. She said: “The place changing doesn’t bother me. The only thing that bothers me is that they don’t want black people to live in the inner city. We want to make the city a mixed-income place where all can stay, but the [Western Cape] government doesn’t want that. If they did, they would have given us these buildings a long time ago.”

A similar story is told in Woodstock in the east of the city. Under apartheid this was a “grey” area – one of the only places in the centre where non-whites were allowed to live – but it has become trendy, increasing property prices and evictions.

“Gentrification” does, of course, occur across the world but in South Africa the effects are even more profound because of the history of apartheid. One Reclaim The City activist, Charol, was forcibly removed to Woodstock in the 1970s in the terrible mass eviction of District Six, a culturally rich and very diverse area in the inner city.


CHAROL has been forced to leave Woodstock after her wooden home was bulldozed.

Her 22-year-old son, who grew up in Woodstock and had never been in any trouble, got caught up in crime after the move to a township and is now serving a five-year prison sentence for stealing a mobile phone.

“It is so far from the city. I have to leave the house at 5am and I don’t get home till dark, when it’s not safe, and to bed until past midnight,” Charol said. “I grew up in the inner city. My granny lived in District Six all her life … she fought for her rights, and my mum after her fought for her rights, so I’m not going to leave my rights behind.

I am still fighting. This land belongs to me because of their fight.”

However, without deliberate policies to rectify the legacy of apartheid, non-white communities will continue to suffer.

Lawyer Chriscy Blouws says laws were passed to address the issue but they are not being implemented, with the provincial government “instead using an apartheid style of governance”.

“We should be looking at long-term goals and the profit you could get from a mixed-income social housing development,” said Blouws. “Instead, we are selling it off to private property developers so that we can extract more money from it.”