Cape Area Housing Action Committee campaigns against rent increases, South Africa, 1982

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Time Period:  
Location and Goals
South Africa
Location City/State/Province: 
Greater Cape Town Area
To stop the government from raising rent.

In May 1980 the Town City and Divisional Council of the Greater Cape Flats and neighboring areas informed residents, largely blacks and Indians, that their rents would increase in June. Government-supported apartheid had previously forced people of color to move from Cape Town to suburbs in the Cape Flats. The announced rent increase in the Cape Flats was unaffordable to the residents of the area, who were already burdened by unemployment, low wages, and an economic recession. The increased costs would force people of color in Cape Flats even farther from their previous homes.

Residents quickly called a meeting in response to the notice and formed the Umbrella Rentals Committee (URC). To avoid a political conflict, the government postponed rent increases and banned further meetings of the URC starting in June. Members of the URC met again in September and changed their name to the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (CAHAC).

In December 1981, the government announced that rent would be raised beginning in the New Year. CAHAC had prepared for this by organizing community groups on the issue and also circulating a petition since August 1981. In January 1982 CAHAC held a community meeting at Westridge Civic Center attended by 3,000 people from 43 organizations including religious institutions, students, trade unions, civic organizations, and rent and ratepayers associations. CAHAC presented the petition with 40,000 signatures to the Minister of Community Development, Ben Kotze. The petition was dismissed on the grounds that a majority of the signatures were from children.

CAHAC demanded a meeting with Kotze. Saying he was too busy, Kotze directed them to their local Management Committees. CAHAC responded to the denial with a call for a stay-at-home strike on 4 February 1982 to pressure Kotze to meet with them. Campaigners constantly called him on the telephone to disrupt his work. CAHAC also organized marches on h h ousing offices all over the Cape Peninsula with a total of 595 participants in the protests. These actions forced Kotze to meet with CAHAC at the end of February.

After CAHAC met with representatives of the government on the issue of rent, the government agreed to form a committee to investigate the rent formula. If the committee was ever formed, it did not do anything. The CAHAC leadership officially ended the rent campaign in April deciding that the existing government would not respond to them.

Research Notes

In 1979 and 1980 there was a successful bus boycott against bus fare hikes, a red meat consumer boycott in support of striking workers, and boycott of schools by students of color backed by parents and community in Greater Cape Town. (1)

CAHAC waged later campaigns against Apartheid. (2)

“Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (CAHAC).” South Africa History Online. Accessed: 15 March 2013.

Kessel, Ineke van. “‘Beyond Our Wildest Dreams:’ The United Democratic Front and the Transformation of South Africa.” The University Press of Virginia. 2000. Accessed 11 April 2013 through Google Books

Maseko, Sipho S. “Civic Movement and Non-Violent Action: The Case of the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee." African Affairs, Vol. 96, No. 384 (Jul., 1997), pp. 353-369. Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal African Society. Accessed:15 March 2013.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jonathan White, 14/03/2013