2022 has been an incredible year of progress in housing and land rights. After years of advocacy, political & protest actions and relentless pressure, we are starting to see a shifting tide in Cape Town.First and foremost, 2022 marks the year where five parcels of land in the inner city were released for social housing. This is a historic moment, and one that Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi, amongst others, have been calling for for years;
Also this year, the Western Cape Provincial Government Cabinet approved the inclusionary housing policy framework. After years of objections and producing case examples, this is a huge step forward. The City of Cape Town continues to drag its heels on developing the policy despite us showing the impact that policy could have made in the past years by implementing close to 650 affordable units through this instrument. But the indications from the City of Cape Town continue to suggest that they are still considering the policy.
The importance of resisting evictions and protecting human rights was championed by us relentlessly. The Bromwell matter was argued at the Supreme Court of Appeal that seeks clarify and remedy the City of Cape Town emergency housing programme. Similarly, the court action on homelessness has initiated a significant shift in approach by the City of Cape Town. The Mayor has reiterated the approach of care, rather than one that uses law enforcement to criminalise the landless and homeless.
Movement support work is part of our DNA and works across all our campaigns. This year we have supported Reclaim the City in its annual congress, and electing new leadership. This has been supplemented by ongoing support to RTC on various campaigns and actions. We have engaged with a number of other movements such as Indibano Yabahlali over the year, and continue to support them in thinking strategy and tactics.
Based on our internal and sector analysis, we have initiated a new area of work – one that looks at security of tenure, and challenges this idea of the waiting list, amongst other things. This programmatic work area has also got us thinking about occupations as the viable alternatives for housing delivery, especially for families in the context of state absenteeism and failure.
Internally we have become a much stronger and transparent organisation. We have spent this year reshaping our internal culture and structure – and as a result decentralised a lot of our decision making. This has helped in streamlining many internal gaps and systems. We also worked extensively in internal debriefing that has helped alleviate the stresses, pressures and long hours that this work demands.
We have added new members to the team – Noziphiwo Sigwela and Nick Budlender. They are already making invaluable contributions to our work! We also had a number of interns that contributed immensely through the year – thank you for your efforts. Comrade Michael Clark left NU during the year. Michael made an enormous contribution to NU over the year, and spearheaded a number of our successful research pursuits in land and housing.
Our trustees also saw new additions in the form of Alan Roberts and Irene Olwoch. Sadly Wandisa Phama stepped down from the trustees, and we were sad to let her go. We also welcomed Tshego Phala from Equal Education Law Centre to the NU Law Centre governance. The trustees have contributed immensely to the intellect and activism of NU. Thank you for keeping us centred.
Our funders, supporters and advocates are coming from every corner of the world. Our work would not be possible without your support.
The NU team is a unique assembly of amazing individuals. Every day our team members go out of their way to push the boundaries. Words are insufficient to state what a privilege it is to work with you!
Finally, our movement partners and hundreds of activists that we support. The inspiration of our work lies there. Each activist and leader’s story reminds us why this work is important, and why the power needs to lie with the people.
Our offices close on 15 December 2022 and will re-open on 9 January 2023.
Since 1994, Cape Town’s spatial injustice hasn’t dared to change. Black and Coloured people still mainly live in under resourced and under serviced peripheral areas. NU advocates for well-located housing in order to redress the spatial divide. See this incredible video by our Zacharia Mashele here
Land & Housing School Camp – October 2022
Ndifuna Ukwazi in collaboration with Housing Assembly, Social Justice Coalition , Reclaim the City, Indibano Yabahlali and Tshisimani – Centre for Activist Education held the second annual Land & Housing School Camp at the Bertha Activist Retreat, Boschendal. The camp provides a space for communities to analyse problems and shape solutions relation to land and housing. See what happened here
What’s the Hold up on Affordable Housing promises?
On 16 July 2022, Reclaim the City in partnership with Ndifuna Ukwazi hosted the “Empty Plots and Promises Commemoration Walking Tour” which was attended by close to 100 people to recognise the 5th year the City of Cape Town has failed to urgently deliver on its promise to deliver affordable housing on 11 sites in Woodstock, Salt River and the inner-city. The relentless pressure by NU and RTC has resulted in 3 parcels being approved by the City Council for social housing.
The Fight Continues:
Affordable Housing on Tafelberg Now!RTC and NU hosted a General Assembly to reflect on yet another year that has passed with no affordable houses on the ground on the Tafelberg site. The assembly brought together people, communities, social movements, activists and organisations (who together organised to stop the sale of Tafelberg) on the current state of the Tafelberg site and updates on the court case. Attendees of the assembly collectively call for social housing to urgently be built on the Tafelberg site and other well-located land!The matter will be heard at the Supreme Court of Appeal in the 20 February 2023 – Watch this space!
Reclaim the City 3rd Annual Congress
Reclaim the City was finally able to amend and adopt its Constitution after a two year hiatus in the process caused by COVID-19 and the related lockdown regulations. This process was completed on 24 September 2022 at Black Pool Hall in Salt River, where the newly elected RTC leadership was announced. Congratulations to the new leaders!
Our Advice Assembly sessions ran once a week over 3-months, concluding in July. These sessions, held in person for the first time since the COVID lockdown regulations were lifted, continued to attract significant participation with an average of around 50 participants from different parts of the City gathering every week. The purpose of the Advice Assembly is to create a space where people can share from each others experience and knowledge how to defend oneself from unlawful eviction, and to create a safe space for those facing insecure tenure in what is typically a daunting and isolating experience.
People who have previously participated in the Adivce Assembly or who have experienced their own eviction process also attended and shared with those new to the process. This coupled with technical advice from the NU staffers. This programme allows for a deep and meaningful engagement where people can share freely. feel supported, and become empowered.
46 people living in Sydney Street, District 6, finally received compensation for the wrongful eviction and impoundment of personal belongings carried out by the City of Cape Town last year.
Demanding Well-Located Alternative Accommodation at the SCA
The Bromwell matter that seeks to clarify and remedy the unconstitutionality of the City’ emergency housing programme was argued at the Supreme Court of Appeal on 14 November 2022. This appeal comes after Bromwell Street residents won a landmark judgment against City of Cape Town – which declared that the City’s emergency housing programme and implementation (in relation to inner-city evictees rendered homeless upon eviction) is unconstitutional.
Our housing clinic continued to provide legal assistance to households facing evictions and landlord disputes, building people’s capacity to understand their rights and navigate the legal system.
The NU Housing Clinic provides pro bono legal advice on evictions and landlord and tenant disputes. The Clinic provides a walk-in service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 09:00 to 15:00. The Clinic has closed for 2022 and will re-open on 7 February 2023.
A National Dialogue with PLAAS
Our second online public dialogue with PLAAS took place on 23 June 2022 under the title: Pushing Back: How activists are pushing for access to land and housing, and push back against a recalcitrant state, hostile corporate power and violence”
The panel was chaired by NU’s Mpho Raboeane and included speakers from urban and rural movements Reclaim the City, Abahlali baseMjondolo, LAMOSA and Vulamasango. To catch up on this discussion, you can watch the recording here on Youtube.
NU tackles security of tenure
This new area of work at NU seeks to find alternatives, within and outside of the current policy framework, in which people will be guaranteed safety and security in their homes. This includes a home and a safe place to live without fear of eviction, intimidation and victimisation. Post-COVID, housing insecurity compounded by socio-economic insecurity has to precarious conditions for most households in Cape Town. This work area seeks to bring legitimacy and recognition to the landless and homeless through securing tenure. This could include the access to basic services, right to build and develop and more importantly feel safe in the place families call home.
NU, with PLAAS and SERI hosted a two-day dialogue with Inner-city Federation, Abahlali baseMjondolo, Reclaim the City, Housing Assembly, Indibano Yabahlali and Intlungu Yasematyotyombeni to look at security of tenure for land occupiers across Gauteng, KZN and the Western Cape. See our dialogue session here
Can the Private Sector Contribute to Spatial Apartheid Redress? “Regulating the Private Sector: Case Studies in Inclusionary Housing Developments in Cape Town”, is a report which documents and draws out learnings from NU’s five-year experience of advocating for inclusionary housing through the Municipal Planning Tribunal in the City of Cape Town from early 2017 through to August 2022. Read the report here.
In the last quarter of 2022, we objected to the City of Cape Town renewing the lease on 3 pieces of land intended for sporting purposes, that would be better used for the urgent construction well-located affordable housing. They were: Green Point Bowling Green, Bellville Bowling Green, Bellville Golf Club.
Leveraging the potential, skills and energy of young thinkers around Justice-Oriented Spatial Planning.
For June and July two interns from Duke University were trained and collected spatial data on vacant and under-utilised public land in Cape Town. We are also participating in UCT Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture Honours studio until the end of October. This access to built environment students allows us to support the development of ethical and justice-oriented young professionals who will be future decision makers in our city through a non-prescriptive exposure to our politics, campaigns and information on public land.
We also developed a standing relationship with Young Urbanists to develop ideas for public campaigns.This project started in June and aimed to model the financial feasibility of affordable housing on 3 pieces of prime and politically important public land in the inner city. Volunteer architects and feasibility experts in this project aim to provoke how we can realistically see well-located public land developed with the greater number of affordable homes, at the most affordable rate possible.
Outside of our work on the ground, NU continues to engage people online, in Cape Town, across South Africa and the rest of the world. Our online platforms have this year expanded to included LinkedIn and a new website.
Our work covering homelessness and illegal, violent evictions by state officials have given an additional spotlight to this inhumane event which often takes place in the middle of the night with little to no public outcry. In May this year, an illegal eviction of people living outside of the Castle was seen on our social media by over 40 000 people across our platforms.
The period in which we have created exposure of the ill treatment of people experiencing homelessness and associated legal cases has also been a period where this kind of illegal activity has seen a small but definite change in pace . We are also seeing the City attempt alternative, and marginally better and legal mechanisms to assist those experiencing homelessness.
Similarly our content objecting to the City renewing leases for recreational purposes instead of housing has also garnered much traction online. See this video by our incredibly talented media officer Zacharia Mashele on the Green Point Bowling Green here: