There is a narrative out there about ‘occupiers,’" says Karen Hendricks from her bedroom in the nursing quarters of the old Woodstock Hospital. "People think they’ll be shot or robbed. They think it’ll be so dirty in here. But every public toilet has a roster. Our people do their duty. We cleaned up this building. The building inspector even said to me [that] not even in wealthy communities do you find this level of co-ordination."

Hendricks is a chapter leader for Reclaim the City (RTC), a community movement of poor and working-class people that advocates for affordable housing in Cape Town. Along with her son and 76-year-old father, she is one of about 900 people occupying the old hospital and surrounding precinct. The "occupiers", as they’re called, have renamed it Cissie Gool House, in honour of the late anti-apartheid civil rights leader from District Six...

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