Faiez Jacobs writes that the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town have been unable and unwilling to make land available to poor and working-class communities for human settlement and development. Picture: Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.
Faiez Jacobs writes that the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town have been unable and unwilling to make land available to poor and working-class communities for human settlement and development. Picture: Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

City of Cape Town’s housing programme perpetuates apartheid spatial planning

By Opinion Time of article published Mar 30, 2021

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by Faiez Jacobs

The Expropriation Bill and the proposed amendments to Section 25 of our Constitution addresses the long-standing aspirations of our people and their dream deferred finally coming into the realm of possibility.

It’s a challenge because we must find the collective and political will to do right with our people, implement and redress “the original sin”.

As the grandson of a family that was uprooted from my culture and heritage in Claremont, I am here for my grandfather Booya Hajji Ebrahim Jacobs who had the original deed of sale to Stadsig Farm (High Level Road, Cape Town), a claim that remains unsettled.

I am here as a representative of a proud people that has trauma, deep scars and painful memories.

I represent communities that make the Cape Flats its home, despite being destined to be drugged, drunk and “house-n*****s to white privilege”, despite being treated like second class Capetonians kept in the backyards and shacks with daily forced removals, evictions and daily water drip system.

We are here. We want to be seen and heard. We want an inclusive housing market. We want well-located land for affordable housing. We want an end to structural spatial inequality. We want collective and political will to implement despite the noise of those who seek the status quo.

The Expropriation Bill is a milestone in our democracy as it is in the public interest and geared towards transformation. Core to the liberation of the African, coloured and Indian people is the land question.

We still feel the effects of draconian apartheid laws.

The slow pace of land reform has compounded the adverse effect on the black African, coloured and Indian population.

We were removed from our land and evicted from our homes. These acts not only tore families apart but removed people’s sense of belonging as their heritage and culture were taken away.

The national grievance for land and property dispossession, therefore, needs to be urgently addressed by the government, and the letter and spirit of this Bill give effect to addressing this.

The Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town have been unable and unwilling to make land available to poor and working-class communities for human settlement and development.

In the Western Cape, a large part of the poor and working-class live as backyard dwellers with up to four generations of family in one stand due to the lack of provision of housing by the City.

This is compounded by the growth in informal settlements which spill over into land invasions and racial conflict. Some of the land invasions are on rail servitudes which are a danger to the lives of people and disrupt the functioning of the rail network.

On the other hand, the province is characterised by much corruption with the housing waiting list which causes further suffering for the poor and working class whose only desire is a piece of land with a home which they can call their own.

The DA’s political priorities, thus, are not to rectify the injustices of the past, but to perpetuate them through the continuous prioritisation of land for commercial activities and building speculators for the affluent classes rather than social housing for the poor in all Cape Flats communities.

The DA government in the province and City have sold prime land in many parts of Cape Town to speculators rather than ensure that land and housing are being made available to the poor and working class.

The Western Cape and Cape Town is characterised by constant evictions even during lockdown against the national regulations.

At the centre of understanding the land question, is the issue of “land invasions”.

The dispossessed African and Coloured communities are forced to occupy empty spaces of land because they simply cannot afford to purchase it, though these are referred to as “land grabs” it is a clear indication of the crisis of land dispossession as a legacy of colonial and apartheid laws. The bill must provide sufficient protection for the holders of unregistered rights over property.

The City continues to implement apartheid spatial development policies towards the historically disadvantaged black African and coloured population in the Western Cape who constitute the majority of the population in the province.

What the DA does, in practice, is to reduce communities to structures commonly referred to as “tin cans” given their small size and corrugated iron structures.

A case in point is Blikkiesdorp – made up of corrugated iron shacks by the DA-led government built for residents of Delft who were made to relocate in 2007.

They further, continue to terrorise communities by playing with speculators to dispossess communities of their land which they have owned for centuries.

A case in point is Bromwell Street in Salt River, where the City colluded with a private developer who bought the cottages on Bromwell Street to build a high-rise block of flats for commercial use.

This rendered those residents homeless because they could not afford any housing options in Woodstock or Salt River due to gentrification that had resulted in property prices in the area soaring.

What is clear was that the City’s “housing programme” and its implementation perpetuated the legacy of spatial apartheid.

* Jacobs is an MP, and the former ANC Western Cape secretary.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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