Vacant building in Sea Point’s Main Road previously used by Tafelberg School. Image: Creative Commons/Discott.

Tafelberg SCA case looms as Winde and activists clash over Cape Town housing crisis

Premier blames extortion and illegal occupations for hindering social housing delivery. Activists argue lack of political will to provide well-located homes is the real issue.


Vacant building in Sea Point’s Main Road previously used by Tafelberg School. Image: Creative Commons/Discott.

Premier Alan Winde said the Western Cape government’s efforts to provide social housing in the province are under attack from extortionists and criminal syndicates in his State of the Province (SOPA) address on Thursday, 16 February.


This week the City of Cape Town said approximately ten people had been killed over the past few months at its construction sites where housing projects are being built. The killings are the result of alleged extortionists attempting to muscle in on the projects.

In his speech on Thursday, Winde said as much as R1.5 million is spent each month on “beefing up security at construction sites” The Premier also took aim at people who illegally occupied buildings in the province.

“As always, it is the residents who suffer the most. The number of housing beneficiaries affected by extortion has risen dramatically over the past several months, from 18 000 to 21 000 residents.

“And it is not only extortion, it is also stealing other people’s rights to home ownership by illegally occupying sites that are earmarked for social housing and mixed-use developments like the Helen Bowden site, Woodstock hospital and other locations,” said Winde.

Winde said illegal occupations hinder the provincial government’s ability to deliver thousands of housing opportunities to the public.

The Premier said the province had delivered 394 social housing projects, including Maitland Mews with 204 units; Regent Villas with 60 units; and Conradie Park Phase 1 with 130 units.

“For the year ahead, the province has committed to creating 9395 housing opportunities,” said Winde.

READ: Bulelani Qolani: Man dragged naked from home sues City for R1.4m [PICS]


Helen Bowden Nurses Home and Woodstock Hospital, renamed Ahmed Kathrada and Cissie Gool House, respectively, are two of the more well-known buildings occupied by activist groups like Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim The City.

Helen Bowden Nurses Home opposite Cape Town’s Waterfront has been illegally occupied since March 2017. Image: Ashleigh Furlong/GroundUp.

These groups demand the State provide people with well-located homes in the City and redress “spatial apartheid.”

Nick Budlender, a researcher for Ndifuna Ukwazi, told The South African that Winde’s claim that occupations explain the province’s failure to build affordable housing in well-located areas is inaccurate and dishonest.

“Both Cissie Gool House and Ahmed Kathrada house were vacant for a decade or more before being occupied – up until then, there had been no real movement on housing development on either site.

“In fact, the Province wanted to convert the Woodstock Hospital into offices for Cape Nature before activists intervened, rubbishing the Premier’s claim that housing activists are responsible for the Province’s lack of action,” said Budlender.

Budlender added that a lack of political will is why well-located parcels of land have been underutilised.

“The occupations were part of a strategy to force the province to fulfil its obligations to build well-located affordable housing, and given how much attention the topic now gets, it seems this strategy has been effective,” he said.


According to the Daily Maverick, ANC MPP Cameron Dugmore asked Winde, “Why did you sell Tafelberg?” during his speech about social housing.

The Tafelberg matter has been a thorn in the side of the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government since 2017. It also represents one of the significant victories for housing activists.

Activist groups have been calling for the piece of prime Sea Point property, which was formerly known as the Tafelberg Remedial School, to be used as social housing for decades.

In 2017, after the Western Cape government sold the property to the Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million, the decision was challenged in court with the assistance of Ndifuna Ukwazi and eventually set aside by the Western Cape High Court in 2020.

The City and Province appealed the matter and lost the High Court battle in April 2021.

On Monday, 20 February, the provincial and local government will appeal again in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

The issues before the SCA will include how the City and province comply with its Constitutional obligations to provide affordable housing to individuals who qualify for it and key laws that relate to how the government disposes of land.

“Properties along the Atlantic Seaboard can enter the market in the realm of R100 million – without proactive action from the State, the cost of well-located homes will push more and more South Africans out of affording to live anywhere in Cape Town. Black (African, Coloured and Indian) people remain economically excluded from the areas that they were legally barred from under apartheid,” said Robyn Park-Ross, a researcher for Ndifuna Ukwazi.