Shahydah Musa, who moved into the building in February, said she had been subjected to physical, sexual and mental abuse by her ex-boyfriend, who was supported by leaders in the house. She was also allegedly beaten unconscious by a Reclaim the City working committee member when she took out a restraining order against her ex.
Musa claimed her attempts at gaining assistance from Ndifuna Ukwazi went unheard.
“I was beaten unconscious by a Reclaim the City member of their working committee, a man known as ‘Blacks’. In July, I got an interim protection order against my ex-boyfriend, who had beaten me, threatened to stab and burn me, and also raped me a number of times,” she said.
Another resident, Sivuyile Magele, alleged Reclaim the City members at the house had stabbed him, doused him with paraffin and threatened to set him alight.
Magele said a meeting was held at the Woodstock occupation regarding his assault, which was reported to police, and members of Ndifuna Ukwazi were present, but the accused was found not guilty as witnesses were too scared to speak out in front of the members.
The Reclaim the City committee responded to allegations of violence and abuse at Helen Bowden, saying it would investigate the claims as a matter of urgency to ensure Musa and all other women on the premises were kept safe.
“Shahydah Musa’s statement contains very serious allegations about our movement and leadership. Our new leadership that was elected today, many of whom themselves have been victims of gender-based violence, have agreed to investigate this matter fully.
“We want to set up a permanent committee where our members will feel safe to report all incidents and complaints of gender-based violence,” read the statement.
Ndifuna Ukwazi responded to Musa’s allegations, saying it had received her original complaint via WhatsApp and it was sent to a line manager to be addressed. A member then went to the Sea Point police station to submit a statement in support of Musa’s case.
The statement said they had enquired about Musa’s safety with Reclaim the City leaders and an offer was made by the leadership of the Woodstock building to have her accommodated there.
“It’s not true that this offer was only made in response to a Facebook post on NGO watch We do not condone violent behaviour of any kind, especially gender-based violence,” added their statement.