To Premier Helen Zille, The Provincial Government of the Western Cape & The City of Cape
Town Metropolitan Municipality:
I write here to support the campaign for affordable social housing on the Tafelberg site in Sea Point, and the expansion of affordable housing in Cape Town and nationally.
I write as a researcher from the African Centre from Migration & Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg working on the Migration & Health Southern Africa project. I have been conducting research on evictions, informal occupations and lowcost housing over the past five years. It is my conviction that state-subsidised affordable urban accommodation in central areas, and not only urban peripheries, is a necessity for addressing the spatial divides of apartheid. This is true for Johannesburg, Cape Town and most South African cities.
The continuation of evictions, often unlawful, in urban areas nationally is a stain on post apartheid South Africa as is the shortage of low-cost urban accommodation. Municipalities, in co-operation with the provincial and national governments should work pro-actively to develop low-cost housings for households both within the social housing bracket (R1500 to R7500 per month), but also for households below this, which the private sector will not cater for.
Protection against rampant property speculation which is continually driving out working class families from inner-city areas in proximity to work and leisure areas is necessary. The Tafelberg site is an important point in this struggle.
Decent, affordable and secure low-cost accommodation does not just benefit those families with access to it. It should be considered a as a public good that has wider societal benefits for public safety, and public health. While not all families can be catered for, it is also important that the allocation of housing be done in an equitable and participatory way, and that the criteria for access is developed democratically.
Finally, I would like to address the question of migration and xenophobic violence, the
primary focus of our work at the ACMS. Cape Town has experienced, like other areas of the
country, repeated violence against foreign nationals, notably Somali traders. Effective
responses to xenophobic violence require strong local leadership, a responsive police, as well as measures focused on safe and trusting social relations. An integrated low-cost housing can play a role in this.
Section 26 of the Constitution on Housing states the following:
Housing.-( 1) Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing. (2) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.
In addition, the Concourt has subsequently made clear: ‘Once it is accepted, as it must be,
that persons within our territorial boundaries have the protection of our courts, there is no
reason why ‘everyone’ in sections 12(2) and 35(2) should not be given its ordinary meaning. When the Constitution intends to confine rights to citizens it says so.’
According to the “The Simplified Guide to the National Housing Code” produced by the
Department of Human Settlements, there is no specific qualification that social housing
subsidies cannot be used for asylum seekers, refugees or non-nationals without permanent residence. Similarly, the The Simplified Guide to the National Housing Code states that both access to emergency housing and informal settlement upgrading applies on a case- by- case basis to “Immigrants whose residence status is uncertain on the conditions prescribed by the Department of Home Affairs”.
The city government may be concerned that an overemphasis on the rights of foreign nationals, in the current context of wide-scale unemployment, poor living conditions and precarious work, could inadvertently feed into resentments and xenophobia. However, an integrated rental housing policy, providing secure and decent rental accommodation, may serve as a protective factor against xenophobic violence and other forms of violent exclusion. An inclusive housing plan would also not mean that the majority of benefits of such a plan would, or should, go to foreign nationals.
However, social housing presents an opportunity to support and protect foreign nationals and integrate some families into social housing schemes, in a manner sensitive to the concerns of local communities and attending to those who have been stuck in transitional housing for many years.
It is critical to attend to the spatial divisions of apartheid, based on race, but not draw new
lines of division based on nationality which could also precipitate social exclusions in the
decades to come. The Tafelberg site presents an opportunity to begin to do this. I therefore
object to its sale to a private buyer, and call for it to be used for inclusive, social housing.
Dr Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS)
School of Social Sciences
University of the Witwatersrand