Camps Bay in Cape Town (Pic: Octagon)
A group of “queer black and coloured activists from the working and middle class” are making waves by occupying an Airbnb luxury home in Cape Town.
The group, named We See You, reportedly booked the 5-bedroom house with a sea view in the exclusive Camps Bay suburb for a weekend but have since refused to leave the property. They say this is in protest against the lack of access to land and safe spaces for queer people and women.
In a statement on their Facebook page, the activists, who have been planning the action for some time, said they further aimed to “reject the profiteering of our natural resources by global elites in a corrupt and broken system of inequality.”
“Our action is part of a global movement of occupiers who do not have homes, particularly those who are close to home that are landless, cannot afford their rent or face violence in their place of residence,” asserted We See You.
They spoke out against government corruption, inequality, homelessness, white power, gender-based violence, racism, a failing economy, capitalism, unemployment, colonialism and the impact of Covid-19 on South Africans.
“We invite everyone into transgressive and peaceful acts of solidarity with those who cannot pay rent, cannot afford to eat, those who live at the threat of violence,” said the activists.
Kelly-Eve Koopman, one of the participants in the action, said: “I believe queer people and womxn, families and children deserve safe and beautiful spaces to live. We cannot heal without or land. We have enough land, we have enough infrastructure. This action is performative yes, it is a disruption yes.”
Koopman added: “We are calling for solidarity in various forms, we are calling for engagement. And at the very least before you get really upset, we’re asking you to listen.”
Mohammed Jameel Abdulla, a social media specialist and content creator, described We See You’s occupation as “genius activist work”.
Abdulla noted that it targeted “a neighbourhood that represents one of the wealthiest regions in the country, owned largely by foreign European capital for holiday homes” and that the occupiers are “queer, some notably femme, art activists”, thereby subverting the narrative of land occupations as “hypermasculine, violent, militant actions of vengeful gangsters.”
It is unclear how Airbnb or the property’s owners and managing agents will respond to the activists’ continued stay, but the group say they have been threatened with police action.
The company that manages the house, TurnKey365 Property Management Group, called on We See You members to vacate the property by the close of 24 September in order to accommodate a reservation starting the following day.
Managing Director Gaby Van Wyk said in a statement that the company is a local medium tourism and property management company that employs 14 domestic staff and a “diverse and predominantly female-led team” and has been negatively affected by the tourism lockdown.
“The guise under which the guests secured the booking has not only been dishonest, but their ‘indefinite’ occupancy and refusal to allow staff onto the property has led to many staff unable to perform their duties resulting in a further compromise on their livelihoods and ability to support their families,” said Van Wyk. “In addition, much needed future bookings are being compromised resulting in a further setback for a small company already suffering and attempting to recover from the throes of Covid-19.”
The activists have continued to post regular updates on the status of their action on Facebook. On Wednesday, We See You urged the person who’s made the booking to stay at the house to get in touch with them, adding that “We’re very open to conversation.”