Article by: Aisha Abdool Karim – First published on groundup.org.za
A group of about 40 backyarders and shack dwellers, part of Singabalapha (We belong here), marched from Arcadia Place to the Civic Centre on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum to Mayor Dan Plato, GroundUp reported
They were part of a group of around 200 people who occupied the vacated Arcadia Place old age home for several weeks. The Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged owns the building.
The group of people was evicted on 2 October. Since then they have erected tents on the lawn and have been sleeping outside the home.
“We need low-cost houses in the CBD,” said Yolanda Mjuza-Poqo, one of the Singabalapha organisers. “We can’t be going from shack to shack, from stone to stone.”
The group wore Singabalapha T-shirts sporting the slogan: “Forcefully taken shall be forcefully returned”.
‘In the database for years’
They began the 5km walk from Observatory at around 10:30 and arrived at the Civic Centre an hour later.
“We wanted to let the City council know that we need houses,” said a woman who would only identify herself as Linda. She had been occupying Arcadia since September.
“We need houses. We’ve been in the database for years. I’ve been there since ’94. We’ve been promised, promised, promised all these years,” she said.
The group sang outside the Civic Centre while waiting for a City official to receive their memorandum.
The memorandum, which they intended to be handed to the mayor and City manager, read: “Our demand to government is to consider adequate accommodation for us now. We do not want to be like our grandparents who died holding onto red cards, neither do we want to be like our parents who died holding onto their white cards.”
The cards are issued when people apply for housing and are added to the database. The colour of the cards indicate the year in which the person applied for housing.
Red housing cards were issued in the 1980s, white housing cards were issued in the 1990s, and new A4 pieces of paper have been issued in place of cards since 2000.
When no City officials appeared, three Singabalapha organisers went into the Civic Centre. After an hour, the organisers emerged to inform the group that City officials would not accept the memorandum or meet them as they had not been informed of the protest action.
“The person we asked permission from didn’t respond or pass our application along to the City manager,” said Mjuza-Poqo.
The group was informed that they had three options: Reapply to march on another day; drop the memorandum off in the letterbox to be read later; or send an e-mail with their demands or requests to the City.
Mjuza-Poqo said most of the 300 people now staying outside Arcadia Place had jobs and were unavailable during the day.
“Today, I expected this,” said Zizipho, who also did not want to give her full name. Before moving to Arcadia Place a month ago, Zizipho said she had been a backyarder in Langa.
“If the government cared about us at all, the people would have come on the first day we were evicted … We need the government to see that we are sick and tired of being second-classed by them,” she said.
“Regrettably, the City did not receive prior notification of the march nor was the memorandum addressed to anyone in particular,” said councillor Malusi Booi, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements.