Cape Town’s Cissie Gool House residents reveal what sets their unlawful occupation apart from building hijackings

Tamsin Metelerkamp and Suné Payne – 8 October 2023

The recent deadly fire in a hijacked building in Johannesburg drew attention to the proliferation of unlawfully occupied sites in South Africa’s inner cities — a symptom of what activists have called a ‘housing crisis’. Not all these occupations operate in the same way, however. At one site — Cissie Gool House in Cape Town — residents have taken an organised approach to turning an old hospital into a home.

In the Cape Town suburb of Woodstock, just below the curve of Nelson Mandela Boulevard, stands Cissie Gool House, formerly known as the old Woodstock Hospital. The state-owned building in the heart of the city was occupied without permission in 2017, after being closed down and left vacant…