The Contested Politics of Housing Allocation in Ikapa, Cape Town, 1981–1994

Sophie Oldfield, Patricia Zweig
Journal of Southern African Studies,, 2010

This article investigates housing allocation politics in the Ikapa townships of Cape Town from 1981 to 1994. It focuses on the ways in which officials and community actors struggled for agency in housing allocation through differently constructed assertions of legitimacy and legality. Complex and contested politicised identities both divided and interlinked ‘community’ and ‘state’, enmeshed in dichotomous categories such as: ‘borners’ (people holding limited residential rights because they were born in the city) and ‘amagoduka’ (people born in rural areas with no rights to urban residence), politicized residents and nonpoliticised residents, and local officials ambiguously positioned both as agents of the state and as township residents themselves. Through this analysis, we demonstrate the complex ways in which community-driven and state-determined processes shaped housing allocation practices, and the contested politics they produced in New Crossroads specifically and in the Ikapa area more broadly. The competing discourses that developed around the right to allocate houses in New Crossroads illustrate how formal and informal allocation systems were established and transformed over time, their inter-relationships and disjuncture, and the processes and politics they consequently produced. Although the article’s analysis is historical, the housing conflicts and politics investigated resonate with the politics of housing access in South African cities in the contemporary period.

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