Cape Town – A group of queer activists are currently occupying a residence in Camps Bay as a safe space for queer individuals.
Seven artists and creatives from the Queer Radical Feminist Activist Collective have occupied the splendid home which boasts six bedrooms, a jacuzzi, and a swimming pool overlooking the beachfront.
Forceful entry was not used to gain access to the property but the group instead had initially booked it for a three-day stay, as the home was listed as holiday accommodation on a popular booking site.
The group moved in on Friday afternoon and informed the owners that they would be occupying it as of Monday.
Kelly-Eve Koopman, 30, said planning for this action started about two to three months ago.
“A lot of people see this action and get scared about, and think I worked hard for my home and I have a right to live here, but we were very deliberate to profile and to place ourselves in a space where we’re looking at high network individuals.
“We know South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world but what that means is that there is a ridiculously small percentage of people that have multi-millions to spare, so this home is used as a property investment and used to generate income but for a lot of the time it is vacant,” Koopman said.
“The attempt was not to rob someone of their livelihood, this is an asset of someone who owns many other spaces like this that can be appropriated for what we’re trying to use it for now, which is a safe space for queer people who have been displaced and removed and unable to find housing and support during this time.”
Koopman explained that the response to illegal land occupations was often to paint individuals as invaders, criminals and opportunists, when they are moving onto empty tracts of land, with no proper sewage, water or electricity.
She said the collective and its actions were in solidarity with other land occupations.
“We’ve done extensive research on this place and what is our historical imperative to be here. What does the equality scale look like, is it viable to call for spaces like these to be reappropriated by the public.
“We’ve come from trauma, we’re not here to incur more trauma. We don’t want to be violently engaged with.
“We’re seeing this as a healing action, both for ourselves and for this space and our queerness and our feminisms is central to this,” said Koopman.
Wewe Ngidi, 47, said as part of the poor-working class, choosing this space was to show that no person deserved to live in a place like a shack.
“When there are places like this one, that is available that no one is using it during the pandemic, we are just highlighting that there are places that already exist,” said Ngidi.
She said the government was not providing adequate support to people affected by the pandemic.
Vatheka Halile, 32, said due to Covid-19, she lost her job and was unable to pay her rent. She was forced to stay with friends and felt that as a queer women, it would be unsafe to illegally occupy City land.
“It’s as if we are in two different countries in one. We have this wealthy class and the poor class and this supposedly is a rainbow nation but seeing Black people here is rare.
“You can just maybe see the people who are working here, the gardeners, the security, cashier, petrol attendant, but it’s not supposed to be like this. We’ve been told that there was no land for us, but there’s plenty of land here.”
The collective said they intend on staying at the residence for as long as possible and could not share information on the owners of the property as sensitive discussions were underway and they did not want to jeopardise it this early on, and have called on the public to show solidarity during this time.