As the country celebrated Mandela Day on Wednesday July 18, with people and businesses giving back to their communities, Premier Helen Zille woke up to find a shack outside her home at Leeuwenhof, Oranjezicht.
The shack had been erected by housing activists from Isiqalo informal settlement near Mitchell’s Plain, and other areas on the Cape Flats.
The group from the Housing Assembly Youth Collective is demanding housing and the inclusion of young people in the government’s housing policy.
Mihlali Xalizile, 24, from Isiqalo said they decided to erect the shack and “donate” it to Ms Zille on Mandela Day to illustrate to her the conditions that they live in.
“We’ve had enough of having to live in bad housing conditions, as backyarders and in informal settlements. We are not asking for too much here,” said Mr Xalizile.
He added that their parents and grandparents had died in overcrowded backyards and informal settlements waiting for houses. “Many of us have lost parents and family members while waiting for decades for housing delivery,” he said.
With specific reference to the youth, he said: “Many of us have been rejected and marginalised by this exploitative economy, some are precarious workers not to mention the majority that remains unemployed.”
The group said they rejected the current housing policy and were demanding that the age of eligibility to apply for housing is lowered to 18 years. Existing policy allows for people over 21 to apply, with preference given to those over 40 years old.
“The youth is always excluded when it comes to social services. My parents have been on the waiting list for over 30 years, my sister is now over 40 years of age and has also been on the waiting list for more than a decade, I’m afraid if we don’t take action, this cycle will continue,” said Mr Xalizile.
The shack was removed by the police.
When asked for comment, Ms Zille’s spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, said they had not been able to identify the group as they had not made any contact with the premier’s office. “Despite the serious challenge, the Western Cape is certainly leading in tackling the housing backlog and living conditions for its citizens,” he said.