The following narrative is part of a broader and in-depth documentation of the Ruo Emoh project. This documentation includes a video and booklet and is the result of collaborative efforts between the SA SDI Alliance, People’s Environmental Planning, UCT & University of Basel Master students (part of the City Research Studios hosted by African Centre for Cities), and the community of Ruo Emoh. A more detailed description of the Ruo Emoh project can be found here.
Interviewee: Ismaaeel & Mymoena Jacobs
Interviewers and Text: Kaylin Harrison, Lea Nienhoff, Israel Ogundare
Recently married Mymoena and Ismaaeel Jacobs are expecting their first child -a baby girl- together this year. Having a home in Ruo Emoh came at the most significant time for the Jacobs Family. For Mymoena, it is simply a case of “everything fell in place”. For Ismaaeel, as the first son to get married, he felt he needed this space. A place of his own and it happened despite all the uncertainty and ups-and-downs of the Ruo Emoh project. The place became available to the growing Jacobs family tree.
“Never mind how small the place is, we got our own space, it’s a home, we can make a home out of this, so, that for me is more important than living in a mansion, or like not appreciating what we have here.” – Ismaaeel
The Jacobs know the burden and expense of renting on someone else’s property since they previously rented in Rylands. They also know what it means to share a house with many family members. In Ruo Emoh, they have a space of their own and Mymoena says, “It’s a nice stepping stone for any new couple.” Mymoena was born in Johannesburg and lived there for most of her life. Ismaaeel is from Cape Town and grew up in Lentegeur, where his family still resides. The place is what the Jacobs have constructed and made home for themselves. With Ismaaeel’s expertise lying in renovation, tiling and general construction, he took the structure and renovated it into a beautiful home. The beneficiary of the house in Ruo Emoh is Ismaaeel’s mother, Jasmine Jacobs. This home plays a significant role in not only the Jacobs currently residing there, but also for any other Jacobs family members. The house may be a home to future generations to come. This is the story of the struggle and the steps taken to finally get the house, in the words of Ismaaeel Jacobs.
It Was Almost Like a Movie
“It is 20 years ago, when the project started, and my mother was there right from the beginning. She was on the board for housing. I was a little boy, when all of this started. Every rand they had put together made a difference at the time. They were raising money with little food fairs. My mother was preparing cakes and boerewors rolls to sell. Later, I became the running guy for her; whenever they were meeting and other things, I would go. Sometimes, I was working, but then you hear at 3 o’clock is a meeting and you have to be there, we had no choice, we just had to move. When I came back home from the meetings I told my mother what was happening, what the next steps are, and I also picked up who is trying to run the show. We had so many challenges and everyone of us had their ticks. But nothing major. I remember when I went to the first meeting for my mother. Some of the other members were from around the area and I had known them by face, but not on a personal level. But after going to the meetings more and more, I was befriending people. Obviously, we were going to live together soon. At the time we were hoping to be neighbours soon, but eventually it just went on for a little while. In the recent years there were no fundraisers or these things any more, but when we met we were discussing how things progressed and how we could secure our property, since it was already our land. The challenge was to handle with the delays. Sometimes we needed to put in large sums of money and the committee would promise certain things on certain days, but it just wouldn’t be possible. The issues would linger for a few days, but the committee would sort them out in the end. I respect them a lot for that.”
We Stood Security Ourselves
“We had to put up a fence around the land. But it didn’t take long until parts of the fence were stolen. We had to take it off again. I played a part in that as well. We came in on a Saturday and we just took it off. At some point it was just the two of us, myself and Archie. Then the infrastructure came in and we knew we have to start to stand security ourselves. We came after work, on the weekends, to stand security at our grounds – day and night. I think this was when people got a more positive mind-set towards the project again. In the beginning this was an issue, but over time we had the feeling of ‘this is our ground’, we claimed it. If we want to stand security we will stand security because we own this now. Once people heard, once they got the go-ahead that things are happening now, things are going to happen, people had enough of the empty promises. Once things started… I can tell you people were really positive towards everything.”
The hope and aspiration that comes with owning a house, especially after a long period of waiting is unmatched. This house has a great significance for Ismaaeel’s whole family. Ismaaeel expresses how he and his brother looked forward to having the house. To both of them it was an aspiration and now it has become a reality, and at the same time a financial security.
Looking towards the future, Ismaaeel hopes to build up the security for the community and can imagine a complex typology. Mymoena has a plan in mind that when the baby arrives and things have settled, she will try to petition for better measures to reduce speed on the roads, for example getting a speed boundary.
When asked about lessons learned in the process the Jacobs responded, “I think to stand more together as a community. Don’t, because you are disappointed by one person, not help the community. That whatever challenges you get, let’s face it together. Don’t leave it to one.”