Camps Bay in Cape Town (Pic: Octagon)
The DA says that the queer black activists and artists who have occupied a Camps Bay holiday house in Cape Town are being hypocrites by trampling on the rights and livelihoods of others to make their point.
In a statement, MP Zakhele Mbhele, the DA Shadow Minister of Small Business Development, asserted that while the party supports the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community it rejects the “ongoing illegal occupation” of the Airbnb property.
The group, named We See You, booked the 5-bedroom house for the weekend but have since refused to leave the property as a protest action against the lack of access to land and safe spaces, especially for queer people and women.
Mbhele, who in 2014 became the first openly gay black MP in Africa, accused the activists of not being the “victims they portray themselves” and of “undermining the legitimate struggle of many to advance LGBTQIA+ rights.”
He argued that “their actions are tainting that struggle and putting their own interests above those of the owner of this property and the tourism and hospitality industry it is part of – an industry responsible for thousands of jobs in South Africa.”
“While we have sympathy for their cause to highlight the plight of vulnerable queer people, women and children in South Africa, illegally occupying someone else’s property completely distracts from their goal,” he said. “Their illegal action will only have an adverse outcome for their cause, as well as the tourism and hospitality industry, and does not foster goodwill from the public.”
Mbhele believes that We See You’s actions are “extremely selfish” and are putting the already strained livelihoods of people at risk in an industry that has only recently been able to re-open.
“Criminal action that violates the rights of others – even with the best intentions – will never and can never be the solution. The LGBTQIA+ community often faces severe discrimination and violence, even in South Africa where their rights are entrenched in the Constitution. The cause to highlight these injustices is righteous; the actions of these occupiers are not,” said the MP.
In response, We See You rejected the DA’s claim that it is supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Our experience as members of the broader LGBTQIA community is that the city and the party have not made good on their mandate to support vulnerable LGBTQIA people and instead have a history of tokenisation, rainbow capitalism and racialised economic exclusion, only representing queers who operate within the city’s upper echelons,” the activists said on Facebook.
Social media users have had mixed responses to the occupation of the house, furiously debating the issue online. Some have praised the activists’ action as a powerful and timely statement against gross inequality and injustice in South Africa. Others have slammed We See You as naive, misguided and attention-seeking and accused its members of adding to the country’s economic woes.
Meanwhile, the group, which has been posting profiles of its members on social media, has ignored a request by the property’s management company to vacate the premises by the end of Thursday (a new booking for the house had been scheduled to start on Friday).
TurnKey365 Property Management Group has since instituted both legal and civil proceedings to achieve an eviction and recoup all costs incurred. According to IOL, this includes charges of fraud and trespassing. “We sympathise with their cause and support the right to protest within the confines of the law [but] we intend to fulfil our mandate and protect the legal rights of the homeowner,” said the company.