MEMBERS of the We See You Collective have opted to sleeping on a different friend’s couch every couple of nights, than move to the accommodation they were offered by the City of Cape Town.
The group vacated the property on Thursday as instructed by the high court and do not have to pay costs for the duration of their occupation. The court ordered that the City provide alternative accomodation – a site in Philippi.
The collective considered their occupation of the mansion a success, even though there was still a long way to go to provide safe and dignified living spaces for women and queer people in Cape Town.
Lethabo Hanong, 24, was one of the seven occupiers and one of the three members who was offered emergency housing by the City.
Hanong is a performer who writes poetry and stages drama productions and became homeless after being kicked out by family for being transgender.
“I’m in my first phase of my transition to become a woman, I’m unemployed and I was chased out from home. I have to beg for money to go and get my medication. At home they will never give me that money. But I’m stronger than that,” said Hanong.
Going to find an empty patch of land in Philippi and piecing together a one-room shack from sheets of materials was never an option for Hanong, who felt even more vulnerable to violence because of her trans identity.
“It would put me in danger to be there. There can be a toilet that can be flushed, but it will be far from your house and what will happen to me while I get there, especially at night,” Hanong said.
The group said in a statement the nature and location of the accommodation offered demonstrated exactly what they were protesting against.
“The support offered by the City of Cape Town was space on a vacant piece of city-owned property located in Philippi. They also offered support in the form of materials that may be used to erect a structure on this property. We know that the Cape Flats and the areas on the periphery are spaces that have been created by a violent and exclusionary system. They are not safe nor dignified, for anyone,” the statement said.
Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi said the City was approached by the court to see if emergency accommodation was available for this private case.
“Normally, the City responds by filing a housing report, after assessments are made of the respondents’ personal circumstances. However, no formal assessment process was instituted,” Booi said.
“To date, the City has not received completed questionnaires from the respondents that will enable the City to determine whether respondents qualify for emergency accommodation.”