Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (CAHAC)

In May 1980 tenants of houses in the Greater Cape Flats Areas neighbouring areas were informed by the Cape Town City and Divisional Council that their monthly rents would increase by June 1980.  The announcement incensed the community that was already struggling under poverty and the economic recession. Members of the community responded by organising a meeting composed of student and parent ad-hoc committees, residents and rate payers associations. The meeting resulted in the establishment of the Umbrella Rentals Committee (URC) which was charged with dealing with the issue of rent increases. The government dropped the rent increases and banned the URC.

 In September 1980 members of the URC reconstituted themselves as the Cape Areas Housing Action Committee (CAHAC). Wilfred Rhodes was elected as CAHAC’s chairperson serving in the organisation from 1980 to 1987. Trevor Manuel was elected as the Secretary and served between 1980 and 1985. The formation of CAHAC stimulated the growth of civic and residents’ organisations in coloured and African areas across the Western Cape. CAHAC had an affiliation of 21 civic organisations in coloured areas.

When the government announced rent increases in December 1981 which would be effective in 1982, CAHAC convened a community meeting at Westridge Civic Centre in January 1982. The meeting was attended by religious institutions, student bodies, trade unions, civic organisations and rent and rate payers associations. A petition of 40 000 signatures was compiled and handed over to the Minister of Community Development Ben Kotze. When the minister rejected the petition, CHAC organised a stay at home campaign on 4 February 1982. Residents clogged his office telephone line with calls. 

Protest marches at various housing office was organised at Facreton, Ocean view, Atlantis, Steenberg, Elsies River and Bishop Lavis. An estimated 595 people took part in the protests. The minister was forced to meet the CAHC delegation in February 1982. After the formation of the UDF in 1983 CAHC affiliated itself to the organisation. It was this affiliation which transformed CAHAC to demand more than rent and rates increases, and include political issues in its demands. For instance, the organisation began to argue that no concessions or reforms were possible as long as the apartheid government remained in power.

CAHAC mobilised people against forced removals in the KTC informal settlement near Nyanga, demand for the settlement of the issue of rent increases, the installation of electricity in Coloured townships such as Grassy Park and Bellville South. Furthermore, CHAC participated in campaigns of the Mass Democratic Movement such as Defiance Campaign in 1989, demanding of the commencement of the process of negotiation between the government and the ANC and endorsement of the Harare Declaration. The government responded by detaining numerous CAHC activists including its chairperson Wilfred Rhodes.

Last updated : 12-Dec-2011

This article was produced for South African History Online on 30-Jun-2011