Tuesday, June 25, 2019

#2 Cape Townians reclaiming their city by occupation: interview

 Apart from the feature we played today we also had people from Reclaim The City coming in our studio. Shamila lives in the Woodstock occupation, and Björn is a German anthropologist doing research on RTC.

Shamila said it is challenging living in the occupation, coming from a house with space you have to squeeze in an small room now. Shamila got evicted of her previous house because the landlord wanted to sell it. She couldn't afford to rent another house. Like mentioned in the feature, because of gentrification rent prices in Woodstock increase to a level that people who lived their for generations can't afford anymore. 

Interestingly, the security provided by the city (to look after the building, not the people) doesn't cover everything. Just last weekend, someone was stabbed in the occupation. But Shamila nevers feel worried or unsafe. 

As an anthropologist, Björn spoke how he got involved with RTC and how he sometimes balances between being an activist himself and trying to be a neutral anthropologist-observer. Because the people you engage with to learn about RTC and activism become your friends. Björn is also part off the eviction task force, giving assistance to families that want to fight their evictions (or get more time to move out) in court. 

One of his conclusions is that it is a different kind of activism than in Europe, where ideology comes at the first place. In here, people just have to have a roof above their head first and that is why they engage with RTC. The ideology and political dimension of it comes next. Björn also stressed that it is a very diverse group of people, some are more ideologically driven, others are not. 

Björn also pointed out that it is becoming a more slow kind of activism. There are no banners outside showing that the occupiers have a political mission, but there were at start. It is activism under the radar. But Shamila pointed out that they do protest, wear their shirts and go out. Just not on a messy or violent way.

In his concluding remarks, Björn said that protesting for social housing within the inner city is quite new in Cape Town and that there are actually a lot of open public buildings and ground within the inner city. But the government of Cape Town sells that land to project developpers to build fancy apartments and skyscrapers. "Land for people, not for profit", it is all in the slogan of RTC. 

Text & video by Dries Hiroux





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