On Wednesday evening at around 8:30pm a group of at least eight armed and masked thugs entered occupied Ahmed Kathrada House in Green Point. They carried pangas, knives and guns. Their intention was clear – to intimidate with violence so that residents would leave their new home.
The attackers stormed the building, pushed past security, and found their way to a communal room where residents where having an evening meeting. They broke windows and pulled out their weapons, shouting, “Leave this building, you cannot stay here. This building doesn’t below to you!” Residents, many of whom are elderly, were terrified and defended themselves with chairs.
Members of the South African Police Service arrived on the scene within minutes. The attackers fled the building and were pursued. At least five were apprehended and taken to the Sea Point police station for questioning. Later one of the guns was found and taken as evidence. SAPS must investigate the case thoroughly and find out who is behind the attack.
The occupations here and at Cissie Gool House in Woodstock began as a protest to the unlawful and unjust sale of the Tafelberg site and in response to the disdain Premier Helen Zille showed to poor and working class people struggling daily for access to decent land and housing. Since then, around eighty residents have made Ahmed Kathrada House their home. When a government has the land and resources to meet its people’s needs but fails them, then residents have no option but to work together to find solutions for the daily experience of homelessness, eviction and displacement. The occupations have been peaceful and purposeful for five months.
We have no clear knowledge yet of who may be behind this attack. We do know it was intended to send a chilling message to people who are standing up for their rights against powerful forces who are intent on maintaining the status quo in this city. Land and housing activists across South Africa have faced similar attacks recently in Durban, in Johannesburg and Khayelitsha. However, residents are clear. We refuse to be intimidated and we will not move.