With a settlement named ‘Pandemic,’ housing activists in Cape Town are tackling inequality

In South Africa, housing is a right — so occupiers are claiming it on golf courses and government lands.

By Ryan Lenora Brown and Vincent Lali

“In South Africa, where housing is recognized as a fundamental right, it gives people and communities a dignity in their fight.”

Moving into vacant land is one way of doing that. South Africans view a place to live as a fundamental human right; “affordable housing for all” is explicitly promised in the country’s post-apartheid constitution. Across the city, occupying empty parcels of land has long been a way to demand that the government make good on that promise — a movement that has accelerated as tens of thousands have lost their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some such occupations have institutional backing. Ndifuna Ukwazi, for instance, works closely with another organization called Reclaim the City, whose members have moved into government buildings left empty during the pandemic as part of their broader mission to make subsidized rental housing available in central Cape Town. For many others, like Nkunzi and her family, land occupations are less ideological. Their goal is immediate and tangible — to find a place to live.

The world is changing. Experience guides you through. Published by Northeastern University at expmag.com

The world is changing. Experience guides you through. Published by Northeastern University at expmag.com