Camps Bay in Cape Town
The seven queer activists and artists occupying a holiday house in Camps Bay will represent themselves in court in a bid to avoid being evicted.
The group, named We See You, booked the 5-bedroom house for a weekend but then refused to leave the Cape Town property as a protest action against inequality and the lack of access to land and safe spaces, especially for queer people and women.
On Wednesday, the collective confirmed on their Facebook page that they have received a notice of motion for immediate eviction from the lawyer who represents the owner and the property management company.
“In the absence of legal representation, we will be representing ourselves in court on Friday, 2 October 2020. We have received support from a number of civil society organisations, community activists and individuals and are deeply thankful for the solidarity,” said We See You in a statement.
The property management company has instituted legal and civil proceedings against We See You, including charges of fraud and trespassing.
The activists have again defended their action, explaining that “we believe in justice, dignity, collective healing and our historical right to be allowed safe space in beautiful areas that we have historically been displaced from, areas we still would never be able to live in.”
The group, who said that they have received negative comments on social media including two death threats, further justified the occupation on the basis that the owners of the house are located overseas and do not actually live on the property.
“This house is an investment that they make about R50 000 a month from. This is more than what you need to earn monthly to be part of the top 1 percent of earners in the country. In fact, most people who can afford to buy property here in Camps Bay, use it as investment not as housing. Many are not based in the country and many of those who belong to an elite group of high net worth individuals, there are only 32 800 of them in the country yet they control 42 percent of the economy,” argued the activists.
“Our unemployment rate is at nearly 40 percent and is only getting higher. Occupations across the country are being responded to with police brutality and illegal eviction. Many others are struggling to pay rent. This level of inequality needs to be addressed and as activists we believe it is our duty to address it.”
In a statement on the high profile occupation, Cape Town-based LGBTIQ+ organisations Triangle Project and Gender DynamiX said they support “actions that raise awareness about issues like income inequality in particular in one of the world’s most unequal countries and cities.”
The organisations noted that many arguments against the occupation are legal ones but that questions need to be asked about “what or perhaps more pointedly who do our so-called progressive laws actually benefit in practice?”
They added: “For LGBTQI+ people in particular, who disproportionately are the victims of violence in already-violent communities and who already face discrimination in the job market; reducing these systemic barriers is about dignity but also survival. The Camps Bay occupation is challenging all of us to think of new and radical ways to not only challenge government but also corporate South Africa and citizens more broadly to get involved, to get the work done to create mixed-income and safe housing opportunities in the same places where people need to work and which continue to benefit from historic disparities.”
Triangle Project and Gender DynamiX are in the process of setting up conversations with the queer collective “to determine what our next steps could be to address the issues the collective is raising.”