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City of Cape Town considers evicting people ‘illegally’ occupying abandoned hospital

Reprinted from News24, by Marvin Charles – 2021-02-05

Reclaim the City woodstock Chapter leader Karen He

Reclaim the City woodstock Chapter leader Karen Hendricks.
Marvin Charles
  • Reclaim the City organisers describe the City of Cape Town’s possible hospital eviction as “completely inappropriate”. 
  • The City is fast-tracking plans to develop social housing at the Woodstock Hospital.
  • The hospital was occupied in March 2017 and, since the occupation, the number of residents has increased.

Occupiers of the now defunct Woodstock Hospital are on edge as the City of Cape Town considers the possibility of eviction, subject to lockdown regulations.

According to the City, the illegal occupation has seen an increase in by-law contraventions, which has forced it to beef up law enforcement at a cost of R400 000 per month.

The hospital is no longer in use, and residents had previously appealed to the City to allow them to use it as housing.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said: “There are no circumstances under which land invasion can be condoned. The entire public housing programme hinges on protecting land from invasion, with projects worth R1.3 billion currently under threat.

“The City goes to great lengths, at great cost, to protect land and cannot afford to have groupings in society who promote land invasions.

“All role-players must actively discourage attempts to illegally occupy land. We owe this not only to ourselves as residents of a growing city, but also to future generations who will require land for schools, hospitals, housing, transport infrastructure and community facilities.”

Booi said over 700 planned social housing units are in jeopardy at the hospital, if social housing law group Ndifuna Ukwazi “enabled” occupants to refuse to vacate the premises.

In October 2018, the Western Cape High Court granted an order interdicting and restraining Reclaim the City from “inciting persons to enter or be upon the property for the purpose of unlawfully occupying or invading”.

The City said the occupants are in contempt of the order and the number of occupiers has increased substantially. This is coupled with reports of criminality, rent extortion rackets, violence and mob activity, to the detriment of the surrounding community.

Mayor Dan Plato said:

“The toxic legacy of Ndifuna Ukwazi’s organised land invasions is the biggest obstacle to social housing on well-located sites in central Cape Town, stalling development of both the City-owned Woodstock Hospital site and the Helen Bowden property near the V&A Waterfront, owned by the Western Cape Government (WCG).”

The hospital was occupied in March 2017 and, since the occupation, the number of residents has increased. The occupation was organised by Reclaim the City, who renamed the hospital “Cissie Gool House”.

Earlier this week, the City said it was fast-tracking its plans to develop social housing at the hospital and was approaching the court to order a survey of illegal occupants.

The survey would assist in helping it to ascertain the number of illegal occupants on the premises, their identities, monthly income, and their eligibility for state-subsidised housing.

Reclaim the City Woodstock Chapter Leader, Karen Hendricks, said: “The City’s attempts at evicting the families in the middle of the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is completely inappropriate.

“To make matters worse, the City has not engaged with the families living in these occupations in any meaningful way – as it is obliged to do before resorting to eviction proceedings. The law relating to evictions is clear: The City is constitutionally required to engage with us about how it could circumvent an eviction that would place many of us at risk of becoming homeless.”

Reclaim the City said: “Rather than preventing social housing from being delivered, we have been calling on the City and the province to develop social and affordable housing on well-located public land in the central City for years.

“However, the City has continued to resist these claims. We have protested the City’s policy of evicting and displacing poor and working class families to the outskirts of the city. We have raised awareness of the City’s anti-poor policies and attitudes.”

Links added by SD Law

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a Cape Town law firm of specialist eviction lawyers, and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or want to know the cost of eviction.

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