Cape Town Outreach Series #3 - Welfare

Outreach Series #3: Welfare

The Scalabrini Centre provides a variety of services from its offices in the heart of Cape Town – but did you know our programmes also have an outreach component? Find out more throughout the month of July in our Outreach Series!

Every Tuesday afternoon, Jane and Etienne, the Welfare Programme Officers, visit shelters and the homes of their most vulnerable of clients. ‘Building relationships with the shelters we refer to is important because we want to ensure, that our clients are in good hands’ says Jane – ‘and we are concerned when we don’t hear from some of our clients. We visit them in their house because we want to make sure, that they are ok’

The Scalabrini Welfare team offers assistance to any migrant and refugee in need. Services include home visits to the homes of our most vulnerable clients – an essential component to ensure, that our clients can utilize the services provided by Welfare. The aim of these home visits is to ensure, that clients can become self-sufficient and promote proactive engagement by clients in improving their own circumstances.

Cape Town Outreach Series #2 - UNITE

Outreach Series #2: UNITE

UNITE explores ideas of identity, integration and diversity with youth living in South Africa

The essential component to the UNITE programme is its weekly visits to its 4 partner school – Heideveld, Sea Point, Vista and Zonnebloem. These on-site visits allow UNITE to take a hands on approach with their students and hence ensure, that the three most significant aspects of UNITE are met:

  • By exploring the theme of identity, youth heighten their awareness of the self and the self within society to better understand the way personal believes shape thought and action.

  • By exploring the theme of integration, youth understand the constructs that keep different social groups separate and use this understanding to build bridges across social divides.

  • By exploring the theme of diversity, UNITE fosters acceptance of differences between people to grow social cohesion and embrace individuality.

Cape Town Marcela Guerrero Casas Capetonian Client Story

We are Capetonian Series #4: Marcela Guerrero Casas

We are CapeTonian is a collaboration between Cape Town Partnership and the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town that celebrates migrants’ contributions to the economic and cultural vibrancy of Cape Town. By creating a space to hear a different story each month, we hope this series will enhance and challenge common perceptions of migration.

Living in Cape Town was never something Marcela Guerrero Casas really planned to do, but the fates had other plans for her. Originally from Colombia, where the capital of Bogota becomes a pedestrian paradise every Sunday, the avid bicycle commuter has made it her mission to transform Cape Town’s streets into spaces that are more inviting to its citizens. She is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Open Streets Cape Town.

Where were you born?

Bogotá, Colombia

When did you first come to Cape Town?

I first came to Cape Town in 2010.

I’ve been living in South Africa since 2006 and I came to Cape Town to work for an organisation that was based in Nairobi. So, originally the idea was that I would be based in Cape Town for a little while before I moved to Nairobi, but that move never ended up happening.

How did you come to be in Cape Town?

Firstly, it wasn’t a very conscientious decision. I think I had that romantic impression of Cape Town being really beautiful. So, when I first arrived in Joburg – that was my first base – I came as a tourist and thought ‘Oh what a beautiful city’. However, after spending time in Johannesburg and learning about the social dynamics of this country, I soon understood that Cape Town had very serious challenges.

So… I came with a lot of reluctance but knew I’d be moving on soon, so that made it okay. Obviously, that never happened, and I have tried to make the most of my life in the Mother City.

What did you do when you first arrived in Cape Town?

I worked for an organisation called Fairtrade Africa. My area is advocacy, so I’ve always been excited about campaigns and policy work and that particular organisation works with producers of agricultural goods.

Which brings us to what you do now – can you tell us a bit about Open Streets Cape Town and how it all started?

Well, I think my role in helping replicate the concept of Bogota’s Ciclovia, or “Open Streets” in Cape Town is linked directly to me finding myself in this unplanned life in Cape Town. During this time I was also busy finding myself and a lot of things just came together.

To start off with, I wasn’t finding meaning in my work, even though I really liked the organisation I worked with. I just wasn’t thriving. At the same time, I was also getting back into cycling – I’ve always cycled – and found it quite difficult in Cape Town. Then, I came across this like-minded group of people who would become the co-founders of Open Streets Cape Town. We all shared an interest in cities and their streets.

I guess, it was just the perfect storm.

And it was inspired by Bogota’s Ciclovia, right?

Yes. What’s strange is I never thought of it as a really amazing thing. It was just what people did in Bogota on Sundays. But, as I was going through this process of soul-searching, the idea of bringing Ciclovia to Cape Town seemed so exciting.

And to be honest, if you asked me why I wouldn’t really be able to tell you what about it grabbed me.
But, perhaps, because it was such a personal process for me, I remember talking to a friend who said: “There isn’t anything more powerful than doing something for the place where you live. So, don’t look so far.”

Where does your family live?

My mother still lives in Colombia. My father just passed away a few weeks ago. And the reason I bring that up is I’ve started to lose connection with the place where I was raised. Because it’s really all about the people. Also, my brother lives in Germany and my sister lives in the US. So, we’re sort of spread out all over the place.

What do you like most about Cape Town?

I suppose what everyone likes about Cape Town – it’s natural beauty.

This might sound cheesy, but I really like this time of the day (late afternoon) in Cape Town. When the afternoon comes and the sun starts setting, everybody leaves the workplace and there are lots of people in the street, the transport hubs are busy, the shops are open, but they’re about to close. I like that energy. And because of the city’s natural beauty, the light also always takes on quite an interesting character at this time of day – on the buildings, but also the shadows of the mountains. Especially at this time of the year.

Then, of course, I like the fact that the city’s cyclable – I know it’s very spread out, but at the same time you can get – or at least, in my privileged position, I can get – to a lot of places by bicycle because the terrain is quite flat.

So, do you actually cycle everywhere?

Yes! A lot of my work is within 10 – 15km of the city centre, so that also makes it easy.

What do you dislike about Cape Town?

Very cliché, but very true – I really dislike the social divisions and the racial divisions that are so stark and so difficult to navigate.

Since you’ve spent some time in Joburg and are able to compare, do you think these divides are really worse in Cape Town?

Yes, that has been my experience. In addition to the stark economic inequalities; I find people here – including myself at times – become quite content with what we have and forget that the world is a big place.

And compared to Bogota (and elsewhere in Colombia)?

Similar. Very similar. The lines in Bogota and a lot of other Latin American cities are less racial than they are economic-based. So, you find that certain social classes won’t interact with others.
Because it’s not racially-driven it’s not so visible to the eye, but it’s as stark as the divides are here and very similar.

Incidentally, what isn’t spoken about, is race. It’s there, but because the Afrocolombian population in Bogota, the city where I lived in, is quite small and tend to live in a particular area, it’s not as obvious as the economic divides.

How do you think this has informed your feelings about Cape Town?

I resented the social divisions in Colombia so much, maybe that’s why I find Cape Town’s divides so difficult to swallow. I was raised there and was therefore placed into a particular box from which I couldn’t get out no matter how much I tried.

I find that here, I have the privilege of looking from the outside, but I see similarities in the sort of barriers that keep people separated.

These divisions keep us from going forward and they’re not simple, right? In both cases, they’re very complex and go back years.

Do you feel Capetonian?

No. I don’t have enough of the history of the city in me. I think I understand some of it – I’ve obviously lived here for a while and have a lot of friends who are from here, my partner is from here – but I don’t have the aches and the joys of being raised in the city. So, I still feel like an outsider looking in.

But don’t get me wrong! I do feel very welcome here, which is very different from feeling Capetonian, I think.

If you could sum up Cape Town in one word, what would it be?


When do you feel most integrated/ ‘at home’ in the city?

It’s probably not the most iconic moment or anything for me, but walking through the Company’s Garden is something that makes me feel part of the city. It’s just a space that brings a lot of different backgrounds together. It’s also a combination of greenery, but still, urban space, because you can still see the buildings.

On the flipside, do you ever feel like you don’t belong here?

I don’t know how to put it, but there’s a tension underlining a lot of our dynamics in the city. They’re racial, they’re also class and gender based. I can’t put my finger on it, but there are times that I feel that tension more strongly.

I appreciate this is not unique to Cape Town but rather to the human race; nevertheless, when people fail to have empathy for one another, I feel less connected to Cape Town.

Do you feel like you are contributing to Cape Town in any way? If so, how?

I don’t know! I’m trying, but I don’t know if it’s having the desired impact. When we started, we really wanted to give something to the city and felt like it could help bridge some of those divides that are so painful and glaring. So, I think, at a very small scale Open Streets has achieved, what I like to call, ‘the sparks’. You know, on Open Streets days, people come together and have a great time.

But they’re so short-lived. So, the idea is to grow from sparks to more continuous light.

What do you wish other Capetonians knew about you?

Maybe that I also carry a lot of difficult baggage, because of the place where I was raised and that it’s very different from the situation in South Africa – particularly in Cape Town – but in many ways is the same human struggle of belonging, of this desire to change the past and being unable to. In the context I was raised in, very similar dynamics shaped who I am and it’s not because I get it or because I’ve overcome it, but maybe because I’m still stuck in that place of internal conflict. And because of that I identify with Capetonians and their struggles.

How often do you go back to Colombia?

On average, once every two years.

And do you miss home at all?

No, because of all this baggage that I carry, I actually find it difficult being there. I miss my family, though.

Cape Town Outreach Series #1 - Advocacy

Outreach Series #1: Advocacy

Somali Outreach Project with the Somali Association of South Africa

Members of SASA raised many of the issues facing the refugee community in Bellville with the Advocacy Programme and the outreach project was jointly developed as a response to better reach those in need. The project began in late 2014 and involves weekly trips by the Advocacy Programme to SASA’s Bellville office to assist individuals on a walk-in basis. The Bellville suburb, located roughly 25 kilometres east of the city centre, hosts a large community of Somali nationals as well as refugees from other countries such as Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since the project began, the Advocacy Programme and SASA have assisted over 500 individual clients and have held meetings with police and healthcare providers on issues affecting refugees in the area.

ACP Press Release


In an historic decision, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has granted rights equivalent to permanent residency to the majority of applications that were submitted on ‘special grounds’ by a group of Angolan former refugees. These applications were the applicants’ last attempt to remain in South Africa – a country where they have spent, on average, the last 20 years of their lives. ‘All parties involved have worked very hard on this case. We welcome DHA’s decision to grant these applicants rights of residency, especially in our national context where increasing numbers of migrants are falling into undocumented states. We look forward to engaging further with DHA about this as we are anxious that these applicants will face uncertainty again in 2021’ says Miranda Madikane, director of the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT). “The work of the Scalabrini Centre has been made possible in part by a grant of R900 000-00 from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC)”.

A total of 1,702 applications were considered by DHA. Aside from those with criminal records or with police clearance certificates pending, applicants were granted a ‘blanket’ exemption, providing them with permanent residency for a period of four years. The Minister of Home Affairs granted permanent residency to 1,227 applicants (72% of applications considered), subject to them providing biometrics, photographs and, in some cases, further documentation. Permanent residency applications from those with criminal records will be decided on at a later date on a case-by-case basis. Applicants now hold those rights associated with permanent residency, which are effectively all the rights, privileges, duties and obligations of a citizen, save for voting and establishing a political party. However, it is not clear what will happen after this four-year period. The SCCT would like to seek clarification from DHA as to why only four years of residency has been granted and would be grateful for a response as soon as possible.


Following years of legal negotiations between SCCT and DHA, the Minister of Home Affairs agreed to consider and determine applications for permanent residence for all Angolans who, upon the revocation of their refugee statuses in 2013, were issued temporary Angolan Cessation Permits (ACP). These permits expired in 2015. It became clear that these permits could not be renewed, leaving this group of former refugees undocumented after forging deep links with South Africa. Indeed, Angolan refugees were some of the first to seek refuge in democratic South Africa, and have proven that they have integrated deeply within the country. Many had children in South Africa who – now in their early twenties – have never set foot on Angolan soil. Read more about the background to Cessation here.

The recent legal negotiations regarding ACP permit holders led to an agreement, as set out in a Court Order issued by the Western Cape High Court. ACP permit holders were asked to provide the Minister of Home Affairs with documentation proving their socio-economic integration into South Africa and outlining their reasons for wanting to remain permanently in the country. The applications, made in terms of Section 31(2)(b) of the Immigration Act, and included police clearance certificates, bank statements, employment contracts and support letters. On 15 February 2017, SCCT handed in 160 lever-arch files to DHA, documenting the lives of 1,757 Angolan applicants.

According to the data analysis of 1,691 permanent residency applications, SCCT found a high rate of economic activity: 91% of adult applicants were employed. The applicants also proved to be entrepreneurial: 19% of applicants hold their own businesses in South Africa. A quarter of these applicants have South African partners, whilst 21% had South African partners and South African children. This level of socio-economic integration displayed in these applications likely contributed to DHA’s positive decision.

Since the submission of these applications, Angolan former refugees have anxiously awaited the outcome of their permanent residency applications. ‘I have handed in everything that DHA asked for. The feeling of waiting for such a profound response is terrifying’ says Yana Almeida, one of the 1,757 Angolan applicants. Yana was born in Angola and came to South Africa as a six-year old. Yana, now 25 years old, studied digital marketing and intends to establish her own business in Cape Town. ‘I want to remain in South Africa because I have effectively lived my whole life here and have become accustomed to the culture here,’ explains Yana. She will now be able to remain here for another four years.

Cape Town Outreach Series - Introduction

Outreach Series – Introduction

The Scalabrini Centre provides a variety of services from its offices in the heart of Cape Town – but did you know our programmes also have an outreach component? Find out more throughout the month of July in our Outreach Series!

Scalabrini offers a variety of programmes to assist local, migrant and refugee communities – from finding work opportunities through the Employment Access Programme, receiving assistance to access essential services with the help of the Welfare Desk, creating a network of women with the Women’s Platform, provoking critical thought and action within youth through the UNITE programme, to learning English, and receiving Advocacy advice.

All of these programmes can be accessed at our office in Commercial Street, a stone’s throw away from Parliament. Most of our clients can be assisted within our office in the city centre, but there are instances in which programmes assist clients by visiting them outside of our offices. These outreach components have had significant success throughout the years. This month’s outreach series will introduce the outreach work of Welfare, UNITE, Advocacy and Women’s Platform and explore the impact they have in local communities around Cape Town.

Photo credit: Nikki Newham