land for people! not profit!

by kopano maroga

at the present moment there are four sites of publicly owned land in sea point, green point and two sites in the cbd. the province is in the process of making these prime locations available to the private sector for private investment. this is happening in the midst of a housing crisis where there is a housing need of near     400 000 households in the western cape; in the midst of continued commitments to instituting affordable, social housing projects. it is clear that the project of spatial violence that found its entrenchment in apartheid is still very much underway.

reclaim the city is a campaign that seeks to hold the province to task in ensuring that these parcels of land are used for housing that is affordable and well-located for the poor and working classes, who are overwhelmingly people of colour. it aims to do this by protesting against the province to institute mixed-income housing on these areas of land. the campaign has already been successful in ensuring the freeze of transfer of one of the properties. this is one small step at ensuring that the legacy of spatial violence against people of colour is addressed in our life time.

land dispossession in south africa has a long and violent history that can be traced back as early as 1652 when oom jan van riebeck decided to set up base camp in the cape. what this has resulted in is centuries of turbulent and traumatic acts of displacement of black people and the indigenous people of south africa for the benefits of white supremacy. through the years this process has increased in the sophistication of its violence by entrenching itself in complex legislation and a socially accepted attitude where land can be owned by an elite few while the – remnants of society, the marginalized and othered are forced to survive by immeasurable dis plays of unending fortitude and resilience.

last year in 2015 there were enormously virulent fires that broke out over the suburbs of camps bay and hout bay in cape town, devastating homes and vegetation. the media attention to these fires, as opposed to the many fires that break out throughout the year in areas such as the townships of khayelitsha, gugulethu and langa, and the subsequent public support are indicative of the stigma attached to spaces that have been codified as black and/or brown. this, however, is a subject for another time and more in depth analysis. the interesting thing about these fires – was a comment that a friend of mine heard from another friend who is involved in the traditional spiritual and medicinal practices of south africa. upon her mentioning the virulence of the fires and their being accompanied by the #rhodesmustfall protests at the university of cape town he said that the fires were a sign. a sign that there was a severe spiritual imbalance in cape town that was seeing its reckoning even amongst the foliage.

the time to comprehensively address the spatial violence that has plagued this country for centuries is well overdue. the time to account for the burial grounds that have been desecrated – by industrial and architectural expansion, the water systems (water being a potent spiritual moniker) that course below the surface of cape town from table mountain that have been built over for the maintenance of the neo-colonial project of south africa, is well overdue.

for more information visit the reclaim the city website at

collage: nicola van straaten