WATCH | Why did Camps Bay occupiers occupy a Cape Town Airbnb for three weeks?

  • Seven people who identify as queer and form part of a collective called “We See You” occupied an Airbnb in Camps Bay.
  • Their objective was to raise awareness about inequalities in Cape Town and to show solidarity with other land occupations in the city.
  • They were ordered by the court to vacate the property by midday on Thursday midday and obeyed the order.

A group of seven people who identify as queer and form part of a collective called “We See You”, occupied an Airbnb in Camps Bay as part of a planned demonstration to draw attention to wealth inequalities in Cape Town, especially when it comes to housing.

“We took an action that was risky. It was controversial but also a very strategic and clever way to think about how we use land. There are vacant properties all over Camps Bay. This one is owned by someone who lives overseas. It’s one of their investments…” said activist and artist Sarah Summers.

The group booked the property on Airbnb and moved in on 18 September after which they informed the press and the rental agent that they were going to occupy it.

“We asked the rental agency if they would participate in our action by giving us the contact details of the owner so there could be a broader conversation and it didn’t have to be something that was, I suppose, a battle,” she said.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 08: The 7 queer

The 7 queer activists at the Camps Bay mansion in Cape Town.

According to Summers, the rental agency was legally bound to protect the owner of the property and did not support what the collective was doing.

They were taken to court. Summers said the lawyers they spoke to said there was no basis on which they could win the case.

READ | Camps Bay Airbnb saga: Occupiers leave mansion, as second group yells at them not to

“A lot of lawyers weren’t interested in taking our case but we were quite clear on what our ambitions were so we represented ourselves in court… it was a difficult day. It was a long court process. We were there for six hours and the lawyers were quite ruthless,” she said.

The collective was instructed to vacate the property by midday on Thursday, 8 October to avoid financial penalties and trespassing charges.

So they handed over the keys.

“Occupations have existed for a very long time, particularly in informal settlements. I suppose as you start breaching areas that were previously just white, it is elucidated in the minds of people with privilege,” said Summers.

Another member of the collective, artist and social activist Xena Scullard, said they had no expectation of enacting “systemic” change in the three weeks that they occupied the property.

“But what we did know and what we did achieve is to begin to have the conversations that are necessary in order to begin to reimagine and rethink the ways in which we think about social justice,” said Scullard.

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