Zombies Zing ZA
After a horde of apartheid-era zombies took over Cape Town, activists spoofed the City's response. But the reality is no joke.
A horde of decrepit zombies (photos and videos here) swarmed Cape Town with a message that became front-page news in Cape Town today: apartheid-era policies are “back from the dead” in Cape Town, disguised as big-business-friendly development and housing policy. (See partial list of press coverage here.)
"The Mayor and many of the politicians running Cape Town are in fact former members of the National Party and the results of their policies are strikingly similar," said Jared Roussow of Reclaim the City (RTC), who organised the rally. "Families are displaced miles away from where they have lived, or evicted into homelessness, while the city sells public land in former white areas to developers who build housing for a wealthy few. We don’t need a zombie apocalypse—we need the City of Cape Town to build an inclusive city with affordable housing for all,” ("Nats" refers to members of the National Party responsible for apartheid.)
Although the action garnered front-page news the next morning, a question remained: what should the City of Cape Town do? To answer that, the Yes Men and Reclaim the City issued a blueprint on behalf of the City of Cape Town. The spoof press release deplored the action but explained in detail a fictitious five-point plan to overcome the legacy of apartheid and definitively desegregate Cape Town.
"Neoliberal politicians often claim that it is 'impractical' to provide services for those who can't afford much," said Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum. "Well here are very practical guidelines one particular city could follow if they so chose, and everyone would be much better off. But Cape Town prefers to let big developers build housing for the wealthy for financial profit. It's the same logic that runs much of the world, but here in South Africa it feels familiar from the days of apartheid, and people are doing something to fight it."
Reclaim the City members have occupied two unused public buildings in well-located areas within Cape Town. Two such buildings—a hospital and a nurses' home—cumulatively house over a thousand Capetonians who would otherwise be forced to live in "Temporary Relocation Areas" an hour's commute or more from their work and community. This and other RTC occupations constitute a larger amount of dignified housing for poor and working-class people than the City of Cape Town has built since the end of apartheid. And RTC provides the only emergency housing in Cape Town for evictees.
But what RTC does best is spread the word that there's another way to run a city than what neoliberals would have us believe. And that's a lesson we could all learn.