Hangberg youth activist on hunger strike

Roscoe Jacobs began his hunger strike in freezing conditions on Sunday July 1.

Hout Bay youth activist Roscoe Jacobs embarked on a hunger strike this week, imploring President Cyril Ramaphosa to address the land issue in Hangberg.

Mr Jacobs began his protest as torrential downpours lashed Cape Town last weekend.

He hopes Mr Ramaphosa will assist the Hangberg community to access land for decent housing and says that the black majority of Hout Bay resides on less than five percent of the available land.

Mr Jacobs is staging his strike at the run-down ablution block at the Hangberg taxi rank.

After his first night on Sunday July 1, he said it was clear that his undertaking would not be easy.

“I tried to get some sleep, but it was very difficult. But the experience made me realise the harsh conditions others in Hout Bay are living under. There is no door to the building, and it was very cold and wet,” he said.

“I am glad that I’ve made this decision though. It has made me realise how lucky I am that I normally have a warm bed to sleep in at night.”

For Mr Jacobs, the hunger strike was not about party politics, but injustices over land distribution in Hout Bay and South Africa.

He symbolically chose to start his protest in July, the month of former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Mr Mandela would have turned 100 this year.

Mr Jacobs has sent a letter to the Presidency about his campaign, but to date had only received an automated receipt of acknowledgment. However, high-ranking ANC politicians have noted his protest.

Since taking up his position at the ablution block, he has received numerous messages of support on social media, and well-wishers have also provided him with fire wood for the small portable braai he uses to keep warm.

“There have also been those to say I am wasting my time with this, but I am encouraged by those comments. They motivate me to keep going.”

In particular Mr Jacobs is hoping the City of Cape Town, national and provincial governments would ensure a piece of land in Hughenden, currently earmarked as a temporary relocation area, would be transferred as a permanent residential site, while he also wants them to roll out the long-overdue Hangberg Improvement Development Area project.

He conceded that his “stomach is speaking to me” after going without food, but he would not be deterred in his goals.

“I love drinking Coca-Cola, but I’m not drinking Coke, only water, tea and coffee. Some residents are offering me food, saying no one will know if I eat, but I can’t accept that. I did accept blankets and coffee though.”

The most difficult time was the middle of the night, when no one else was around, he said.

“You are completely alone, and every noise you hear outside makes you worry. You really don’t know what to expect.

“Hangberg has a crime problem, but again, if adequate housing is provided, you’ll find less social ills in the community.

“The City has the means to assist in terms of housing.

“They have the budget. So they have no excuse.”

Mr Jacobs said he would only suspend his hunger strike if and when he received a “satisfactory response” from the Presidency.

“If they are able to provide a date when we can sit down to talk about these issues, that will be enough.

On Youth Day (June 16), the president called on young people to take charge of the future. I’m doing my part. So now he must do his part and meet us half way.”

A prayer meeting in support of Mr Jacobs was held on Thursday night, July 5. Members of his family as well as well-wishers within the community gathered in front of the Hout Bay Sports and Recreation Centre to show their support.