AEC: Argus article on new film on Cape Town housing crisis

W Cape’s housing crisis hits the big screen
14 07 2008
by Francis Hweshe
July 14 2008 at 05:14PM
Source: Argus

The critical housing question in the province hit the big screen with politicians, activists and beneficiaries heading to the movie house to catch a provocative production focused on the housing crisis in the Western Cape.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille, Housing MEC Richard Dyantyi, mayoral committee member for housing Dan Plato and Ashraf Cassiem of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, among others, were part of the audience who watched Shamila’s House on Saturday afternoon.

The movie, directed and produced by Robyn Rorke, was shown at the V&A Waterfront as part of the Encounters Film Festival.

‘The movie is not meant to blame anyone’

“The movie is not meant to blame anyone, but is a line of conversation designed to stimulate robust dialogue around the housing issue with the intent of finding solutions,” explained Rorke at the outset of the movie.

Made about four years with a budget of nearly R300 000, the documentary focuses on the struggles of a community in Eastridge, Mitchells Plain, in its quest to have its poorly constructed block of flats repaired.

The movie exposes inefficiency within a city-appointed company which built the blocks of flats in 1999.

The community feels cheated as it discovers that its members have to pay double the original agreed figure per month for homes with cracked walls, broken doors and windows and leaks.

Faced with this scenario, the community, together with the Anti-Eviction Campaign, elects Shamila Hamied, a mother of two, who looks after five other children for a living, to spearhead the fight with the city and the company to have the houses fixed.

‘We must not make housing a political football’
The community refuses to pay for the houses and stands its ground, including toyi-toying when threatened with eviction.

Housing authorities eventually relent and the flats are repaired.

As is reflected in the movie, the community wants action taken against the company.

After the movie, De Lille, Dyantyi, Plato, Cassiem and Hamied engaged in a panel discussion.

Plato, who was shown in the movie handling the issue between the community and the company, came under attack from activists for “dragging his heels” in dealing with the company.

Plato said legal action had been taken and remedial work was underway.

De Lille, calling housing an “emotive issue” and citing the constitution, said the provision of houses should be made a top national priority.

“We must not make housing a political football,” she said.

Dyantyi called on Rorke to do a follow-up film.

He said the housing question should not be looked at in isolation but other critical components such as unemployment, poverty, education, health, the economy and crime had to be taken on board.

He said R82-million had been contributed for repairs to poorly built houses, in nine areas including Eastridge.

Cassiem said public-private partnerships in housing were cause for grave concern as they were often marred by corruption, inefficiency and crooked people bent on abusing the public purse to enrich themselves. – Cape Argus