In 2016, Reclaim the City started as a campaign to tackle apartheid spatial planning within the inner city of Cape Town by campaigning for desegregation and calling for affordable housing. It began as a mobilisation to stop the sale of the Tafelberg site within the inner city.
In March 2016, RTC supporters occupied two abandoned public buildings, The Old Woodstock Hospital (now know as Cissie Gool House) in Woodstock and the Helen Bowden Nurses’ home (now known as Ahmed Kathrada House) in Green Point to protest the sale and the lack of commitment to affordable housing.
What started in 2016 as a protest has resulted in a number of campaign pushes and building occupations all geared towards redressing the spatial apartheid and gentrification in Cape Town. As it stands, there are two ongoing RTC political occupations that provide shelter to over 2000 people.
Reclaim the City has successfully reclaimed three public buildings in the inner city and surrounds.
Ahmed Kathrada House in Green Point, Cissie Gool House in Woodstock, and Irene Grootboom House in the city centre.
Why did Reclaim the city occupy public buildings?
We occupied public buildings because our members are desperate for housing. Because we cannot afford to pay our rents anymore. Because we don’t want to live on the street when we are evicted. Because we don’t want to be sent to relocation camps by the government to be forgotten. Because we are tired of living in distant informal settlements and townships. Because we have little land and no security.
We occupied public buildings because we too have a right to live in the city. A right to walk on the promenade and walk in the gardens. A right to have a view of the sea. A right to raise our children and care for our families in good areas where there are good schools and good hospitals. A right to be close to work and earn an income.
We occupied public buildings because the City, the Province and the National Government have failed us. They say we must wait patiently and the land and housing will come. But it never does and most likely it never will unless we organise against the property power that maintains inequality and spatial apartheid.
We occupied public buildings because we want to bring the struggles of poor and working class Black and Coloured people back to the centre of our city, to the seat of power, and to the land that matters.