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Homeless

Echoes of District Six evictions in case before the Constitutional Court

By | Eviction news, Evictions, Homeless

Reprinted from GroundUp, by Masego Mafata – 2024-02-28

Judges question City of Cape Town about eviction of Bromwell Street tenants

  • The City of Cape Town appeared before the Constitutional Court on Tuesday in a case concerning the eviction of tenants from Bromwell Street, Woodstock.
  • Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga asked the City whether the planned eviction resembled the forced removals from District Six during apartheid.
  • Ndifuna Ukwazi, on behalf of the Bromwell Street tenants, has argued that the City’s exclusion of emergency accommodation in its housing plans for the inner-city is unconstitutional.
  • The City said it was not obliged to provide emergency accommodation in the inner-city.
  • Judgment was reserved.

Judgment in the eviction of City of Cape Town tenants from Bromwell Street in Woodstock was reserved in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.

During the hearing, Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga asked the City if the eviction echoed the displacement of families from District Six under apartheid. “Is this not a refined, modern-day District Six type of displacement?” asked Justice Madlanga.

Housing advocacy group Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU), on behalf of the Bromwell Street residents facing eviction, had approached the Constitutional Court to appeal against a 2023 judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal which overturned an order by the Western Cape High Court. The High Court had ruled in 2021 that the City’s emergency housing policy is unconstitutional and ordered the City to provide emergency housing in the inner city for the Bromwell Street families.

The Bromwell Street cottages were bought by Woodstock Hub Pty Ltd, a property development company, for R3.15-million in 2013.

The residents began their protracted legal battle against their eviction in 2016. They are long-term tenants of the cottages who work and attend schools in surrounding areas and the inner city. Among their requests has been that the City provide emergency accommodation in the inner city so that they can stay close to their places of work and schooling.

Arguing for the residents, advocate Sheldon Magardie said the City prioritised social housing over accommodation in the inner city, and this ultimately excluded people rendered homeless following an eviction. This, Magardie argued, was unreasonable, irrational and unconstitutional. Many of the Bromwell Street residents would not qualify for the City’s social housing programmes “because they don’t earn enough money to qualify”, said Magardie.

The City’s social housing programme, for which houses in Woodstock are still to be built, is “a rental or co-operative housing option for households earning between R1,850 and R22,000 a month,” according to this Western Cape Government website.

“The inevitable outcome for any person in need of emergency housing in the inner city is relocation to the Incremental Development Areas or Temporary Relocation Areas on the outskirts of the city,” Magardie told the court.

In a lengthy exchange between Justice Leona Theron and Magardie, Justice Theron questioned the lack of clarity from NU regarding which specific housing policy and which specific sections in that policy were unconstitutional.

Magardie responded by saying that the City did not have a singular housing policy but relied on various pieces of legislation and policies.

On behalf of the City, advocate Karrisha Pillay SC argued that no legislation or policy made it an obligation for the City to provide emergency accommodation in the inner city for people who have been evicted in the inner city. “The City does not have emergency accommodation in the inner city,” she said.

Pillay said the City had made offers of temporary emergency housing in Wolwerivier, Maitland and Kampies, all of which had been rejected by the Bromwell residents.

Is this a special case?

Acting Justice Matthew Chaskalson asked advocate Magardie whether the Bromwell Street case should be treated as a special case or an ordinary eviction case.

“We are dealing with lawful tenants who were only evicted because of the consequences of the City’s housing policy. We are not talking about illegal occupiers … This particular community is one of a handful of communities that managed to survive apartheid intact, in a white area … What this process is doing is aggravating spatial apartheid by pushing poor coloured people to the outskirts of the city,” said Justice Chaskalson. He said this made him wonder whether the case should be treated as a special case.

Magardie argued that this was indeed a special case. He said the historical context of Bromwell Street and the question of spatial justice made the City’s action against the Bromwell families unreasonable.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, supported NU as amicus curiae, and also argued for a special case as it could develop the law to give sufficient guidance on the location of emergency accommodation.

Advocate Jason Brickhill, on behalf of Abahlali, told the court that currently the law does not give clear guidance on the location of emergency accommodation or on access to services in the accommodation.

But Pillay argued that the applicants had at no point pleaded the case as a special case. She added that if the case had been pleaded as such, the City “may have well said we’ll drop two social housing programmes for emergency housing programmes” in the inner city. But, she said, as it stands, the City does not have the funds or the land available to create emergency accommodation in the inner city because ten of the 11 land parcels that the City owns are designated for social housing.

Judgment was reserved.


For further information

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a law firm of specialist eviction lawyers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. We help landlords and tenants maintain healthy working relationships. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za if you need help with tenants’ rights or landlords’ responsibilities.

Further reading:

High Court grants City of Cape Town final eviction order

By | Eviction news, Evictions, Homeless

Reprinted from News24, by Marvin Charles – 2024-02-15

The Western Cape High Court has granted a final eviction order in the City of Cape Town’s application to remove homeless people living around Culemborg in the Cape Town CBD.

These areas are in the vicinity of the Nelson Mandela Boulevard intersection with Hertzog Boulevard, Old Marine Drive, and Christiaan Barnard Bridge.

The order includes a standing interdict against any further unlawful occupation of these areas and other City-owned public spaces identified in the order.

In February last year, the court granted the City an interim order for eviction notices to be served at unlawful occupation hotspots along Buitengracht Street, FW de Klerk Boulevard, Foregate Square, Taxi Rank and Foreshore, Helen Suzman Boulevard, Strand Street, Foreshore/N1, Virginia Avenue and Mill Street Bridge.

Over the past few years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown, the number of destitute residents has increased.

The Cape Town CBD, specifically, has seen a sharp increase in people sleeping rough.

The High Court said the City should provide alternative accommodation at its Safe Spaces, and that those who intended taking up alternative accommodation should let the City know no later than 7 March.

It also ordered that the homeless people should vacate the property by 14 March.

“In the event that the respondents [the homeless] fail or refuse to vacate the affected areas of the property, the sheriff and person appointed by the police to the extent necessary, is authorised and directed to from 15 March 2024 to 15 June 2024 to eject the respondents from the affected areas of the property,” it ordered.

The court also authorised the demolishing and removal of structures unlawfully occupied by people should they refuse to vacate.

In a statement, the City said: “The final eviction order for the Culemborg area follows efforts over time by the City to offer social assistance and care interventions to those persons unlawfully occupying public spaces in the area, which is close to City-run Safe Space facilities offering dignified transitional shelter and social programmes to assist people off the streets sustainably.

“Safe Spaces aim to reintegrate people into society, and reunite them with family. Personal development planning and employment opportunities are made available, as are referrals for mental health, medical, and substance abuse treatment.”


For further information

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a law firm of specialist eviction lawyers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. We help landlords and tenants maintain healthy working relationships. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za if you need help with tenants’ rights or landlords’ responsibilities.

Further reading:

Hundreds evicted from buildings in Cape Town city centre

By | Eviction news, Homeless

Reprinted from CapeTownetc.com, by of GroundUp – 2024-01-28

Piles of suitcases, mattresses and items of furniture were strewn across the narrow Commercial Street in Cape Town on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hundreds of people, most of whom are foreign nationals, were evicted from three buildings in the city centre.

The area outside 42 and 44 Commercial Street was in chaos on Wednesday as dozens of South African Police Service (SAPS) officers and immigration officials cordoned off the street where the occupiers remained with their belongings. The occupied buildings are in close proximity to Parliament.

According to Western Cape SAPS spokesperson Malcolm Pojie, more than 100 undocumented people were transported to Epping Immigration Office for verification. ‘All other persons who illegally occupied the building were informed to vacate the premises with immediate effect,’ he said.

The occupiers were reportedly served with eviction notices from March 2023. A court order which was granted on 31 August 2023, stated: ‘The first to 265 respondents are ordered to vacate property situated at 44 to 48 Commercial Street, Cape Town, Western Cape by no later than December 31, 2023.’

The August court order was granted a few days after a fire in one of the buildings that was caused due to an electrical fault.

The court also said that if the occupiers do not vacate, then the sheriff and SAPS are authorised to remove the group with their belongings.

When we arrived on Wednesday, the occupiers — some standing with bags filled with their belongings — had been told to wait outside while officials went into the buildings to remove their belongings.

One of the occupiers, Pearl Myekeni, said she received an eviction notice in March.

Myekeni said they were told that the landlord to whom they were paying rent had apparently not been paying the owner of the building. The owner then terminated the contract. ‘We ended up collecting R26,000 from the tenants, each tenant contributed about R300. I didn’t participate so I was told that I can’t sleep here.’

She said slept at her boyfriend’s house on Wednesday night. Myekeni has been living in the building since September 2022.

She said she has had her belongings packed in boxes since December in anticipation of being evicted.

Another tenant, who did not want to give her name, claimed that ‘more than a thousand’ people were living in the buildings. ‘About four months ago after finding out that the landlords were not paying the owner of these buildings, we got rid of them and we haven’t been paying rent to anyone ever since then.’

Azubuike Kanu, who said he has lived in one of the buildings for more than five years, told GroundUp that he sent his wife and children to live in the Eastern Cape in December in anticipation of the eviction.

‘We were violently taken out of the building [on Wednesday]. We were transported in a truck to Langa Home Affairs to check whether we are here illegally or not. Some were arrested. They drove me to Mowbray and I had to find my own way back here,’ said Kanu.

Kanu spent the night outside on the pavement again on Thursday because he has nowhere else to go.

Cape Town lawyer Junaid Jamat told GroundUp that he is representing 120 of the occupants. ‘We were made aware of the issue last week Friday, but the occupants had no funds for the case to be handled.’ He said by the time the residents had collected funds on Tuesday, it was too late to oppose the eviction in the High Court.

‘Unfortunately, by Wednesday morning the Sheriff and the police were already there evicting the people, so we were too late,’ he said.

GroundUp contacted the Department of Home Affairs for additional information on the arrested immigrants on Wednesday afternoon. No comment was given by the time of publication.


For further information

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a law firm of specialist eviction lawyers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. We help landlords and tenants maintain healthy working relationships. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za if you need help with tenants’ rights or landlords’ responsibilities.

Further reading: