statement: Equal Education is in solidarity with housing activists who are in the Western Cape High Court, to fight against the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government trying to appeal the judgment in the Tafelberg case

Home | statement: Equal Education is in solidarity with housing activists who are in the Western Cape High Court, to fight against the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government trying to appeal the judgment in the Tafelberg case

12 November 2020

Media statement: Equal Education is in solidarity with housing activists who are in the Western Cape High Court tomorrow, to fight against the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government trying to appeal the judgment in the Tafelberg case  


Today, Friday 13 November, Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) and Reclaim the City (RTC)  are back in the Western Cape High Court, fighting against the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government being allowed to go to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), to appeal the judgment in the Tafelberg land case. 

In August 2020, the Western Cape High Court delivered judgment in the case, against the sale of a piece of land in Sea Point in the Western Cape, known as the Tafelberg site. The judgment cancelled the sale of the Tafelberg site and affirmed that the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town have a duty placed on them by the Constitution to make sure  that poor and working class households have access to affordable housing in  central Cape Town. The private buyer has decided not to appeal the court judgment.

The Tafelberg judgment has an important impact on the right to education, and Equal Education was a friend of the court (amicus curiae) in the case, represented by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC).

The impact on the right to education 

The Western Cape High court’s judgment recognised that not enough has been done to fix spatial injustice in Cape Town. RTC and NU went to court to challenge the decision by the Western Cape government to sell the Tafelberg property to a private buyer for R135 million. This is because the property – which is almost as big as an entire city block – could instead be used to build affordable housing for poor and working class households. 

EE was involved in the case as a friend of the court, to draw attention to the connection between the right to housing and the right to basic education. Inequalities in access to housing in Cape Town impact learners’ access to basic education in Cape Town. 

In 2014, Equal Education (EE), NU and the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) made a joint submission to the Western Cape MEC of Transport and Public Works, to object to the sale of the Tafelberg site (and other pieces of well-located land) to private buyers. Our objections fell on deaf ears, which is why NU and RTC, after a number of years trying to #StopTheSale, went to court.

EE staff and members have also been part of protests and occupations over the last few years, demanding #LandForPeopleNotForProfit alongside our Comrades from NU and RTC.

Some of the information that we submitted to the court included interviews with learners and principals about how travelling long distances between home and school negatively affects learners. Many learners live far from central Cape Town, while attending schools in areas such as Mowbray and Sea Point.

A Grade 8 learner said: “I used to feel safe but I don’t feel safe because I was robbed of money on my way to school”. A Grade 11 learner also said: “… Sometimes when I get home it’s dark and I am alone. So I am seen as an easy target”.

A school principal said: “It certainly plays an effect on school attendance. There is also a negative effect on discipline and communication with parents. We struggle to contact parents. These learners are also tired at school and cannot be forced to participate in extra murals as it is difficult and unsafe for learners to travel late.”

Asked why they wanted to attend a school in town, a learner said: “Because I like the education that you get here.  My sister was schooling here before.  The schools closer to home aren’t safe, there are no teachers, no textbooks”.

Explaining why their family did not live closer to their school in town, a learner said: “It is expensive to live close to this school. We can’t afford it”.

Reflections from Equal Education staff and members on the importance of the Tafelberg judgment, and being part of the struggle for #LandForPeopleNotForProfit!

Siphenathi Sakhele, Junior Organiser at Equal Education, Khayelitsha

“I joined the call in 2017 to support and advocate for the stop of the displacement of working class citizens from well-located areas and secure their right to access for decent affordable housing particularly in the inner city. 

As an activist in education, I believe the struggle of the workers also affects learners and students who go to school and varsity in the city; they are forced to wake up early in the morning to commute from far away. Along the way they face different challenges, some are victims of unsafe situations such as robbery/violence on their way for “better resourced education institution,” Safety might not be the issue in the inner city. 

Early in the year of 2017 March I embarked on a journey to be part of the five Reclaim the City supporters occupying the Woodstock Hospital as form of action to address the need of residents for affordable housing and redressing the spatial legacy of apartheid. As occupiers we were protesting against the sale of Tafelberg and we were demanding clarity on affordable housing on the Helen Bowden and Woodstock Hospital sites.

I welcome the Western Cape High Court judge[ment] that was taken on 31st August… to set aside the sale of the provincially owned property. Although the judgment doesn’t guarantee spatial justice at least it gives hope to us as working class citizens that we can still fight for our right to have decent affordable housing in the inner city. I believe a joint approach that includes different stakeholders such as working class individuals from different areas in the formal and informal settlements, Western Cape Human Settlements MEC, scholars in the sector of land and human settlements, organisations and the Western Cape government to address, [to] plan and develop the spatial planning. In this way we will be building an inclusive city that we all want to see. It should be the role of the people to decide about the use of land.”

Vuyolwethu Tswelekile, former Equaliser, Khayelitsha 

“I joined Equal Education in 2016 as an Equaliser where I found out about Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City as they are both sister organisations which advocate for equality and they share the same struggles. I then participated in certain campaigns that Reclaim the City was busy with at that time and I became a learner member of Reclaim the City in 2016. 

As a learner who was living out of the inner city who studies in the inner city I needed to advocate for it [against the sale of Tafelberg] because it was really a struggle travelling each and every day in the inner city and out again.

I studied at Walmer Secondary School which is in Woodstock, 28,6 km away from Khayelitsha where I resided in summer and spring, but in winter I had to live in Kapteinsklip because it was much safer but very far from the inner city. Due to safety reasons and the city being exclusive I had to adapt to this kind of lifestyle because I needed to be at school every day on time – despite the fact that I had to wake up very early and catch the earliest bus possible and also rush after school trying to beat traffic and arriving late at home, but that was impossible when one uses public transport. 

The Tafelberg court case to me was an important opportunity to voice out my struggle and reddress spatial apartheid. The Tafelberg court case was of utmost importance because housing is delivered in the outlying areas that maintain racial and economic exclusion. [Attending school in the City] meant that I could get a better education and  separate myself from the gangsterism happening in the township schools. 

It’s very significant [the judgment] because it meant part of Tafelberg could be used for affordable housing for poor people that travel to Sea Point daily, like domestic workers and gardeners. It means that we could get dignity and belonging. It means that a young learner can now not think twice when wanting to attend school in the inner city because the city is more inclusive now. It means that domestic workers won’t live in confined basements that affect their well being. It means that the working class can be included.”