City of Cape Town refuses to respond to activist prank

Organisers of Monday’s zombie rally sent out a spoof press release that claimed the City had agreed to their demands

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Photo of protest
Reclaim the City and The Yes Men followed up their satirical zombie march by sending a fake email from the City of Cape Town. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

World-famous guerilla activists The Yes Men, together with local housing activist group Reclaim the City, followed up on Monday’s zombie rally with a spoofed press release email that looked like it was sent from the City of Cape Town. It was apparently sent to thousands of journalists across the world and all city councillors.

The message was written in the style of a City press release. Upon a first — and even a second — glance it looked exactly like a City of Cape Town email. The fact that it was a fake wasn’t obvious unless you looked at the email header information, which hardly anyone ever does when reading emails. (GroundUp came very close to falling for it and nearly updated our article on Monday’s protest. Some journalists expressed anger at a stunt like this being executed during the age of fake electronic news.)

The email “denounced” the actions of the Yes Men and Reclaim the City. It highlighted their claim that the City was replicating the policies of apartheid-era spatial planning. The email then claimed that the City had already decided to adopt policy decisions that Reclaim the City was calling for. These were:

  • ending mass evictions of people occupying City-owned land;

  • upgrading all informal settlements;

  • shutting down all temporary relocation areas, including Blikkiesdorp, and moving the residents there to housing nearer the city centre;

  • ceasing the sale of all City-owned land; and

  • rejecting policy direction from large developers.

GroundUp wrote to the City on Tuesday pointing out that there was one serious aspect to the spoof, “and that is the five policy changes that Reclaim the City are calling for”, and asking for comment on these five issues. City media manager Luthando Tyhalibongo responded: “We have communicated on these issues on multiple occasions and we will not be entertaining these false accusations and claims by Reclaim The City.”

Here is a screenshot of the fake email:

TOPICS:  Housing

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