How can we solve the CPUT, District six dispute?

The 1960s proved a trying time for South Africa as the apartheid government undertook their vigorous forced removals campaign. And while District Six stands in memory as the most grossly affected area, little has been done to ensure that the old town is shielded from history’s harsh repetitions.

The historic suburb now stands at the heart of a bitter dispute between the eponymous District Six Museum and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, which has recently begun building student residences on the only remnant of old Hanover street.

While a series of discussions have taken place, what remains a core concern is the effect that the buildings will have on preserving District Six’s heritage. Little focus has been placed on the student accommodation crisis which prompted the institution’s actions. This despite CPUT’s legal (albeit questionable) ownership of the land.

Student accommodation has proven to be a giant mountain that neither universities, developers nor government have managed to tackle. Despite growing reports of housing shortage for students, especially first years, little appears to be done to bring about a long term solution. Early this year, News24 reported a shortage of 207 800 beds for university students as well as a further 400 000 for FET college students. And the odds are unlikely to change. With a new batch of matrics expected to register for universities and FET colleges in the coming year, these numbers are sure to rise. The question then is: is erecting more buildings to house these students the only solution?

If the answer to this question is indeed yes, then perhaps resolving the conflict between CPUT and the District Six Museum would be effortless. However, if one where to pit history against the needs of our country’s ‘future’, which would you choose? Would you side with the Museum, halt all construction and let our collective memory of District Six remain intact? Or would you support CPUT’s decision, proceed with building so that thousands of students can have access to adequate accommodation when they pursue their studies?

Does history always trump the future, or can its legacy still be protected even when the physical reminders are tarnished? What’s your solution? As a student do you agree with CPUT’s action? And if not, what more can be done?

TheRoomLink property matching site owner Liezl Hesketh suggests that the answer lies in sharing. Instead of looking at the obvious options, she proposes that by opening up our home and making spare rooms available to rent, you and I can significantly contribute to a long term solution. Her thoughts not only support Ubuntu, a vital cultural practice engrained in our nation’s history, but also promote entrepreneurship amongst homeowners. Read what she had to say about how ordinary people hold the solution to the student accommodation crisis.

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