Protesters defy rain to demand homes as winter closes in

By Suné Payne 3 May 2018

Social Justice Coalition activists and residents of informal settlements occupy the area outside the Cape Town Civic Centre to protest illegal evictions by the City of Cape Town, 2 May 2018. Photo by Leila Dougan

Members of the Social Justice Coalition protested on Wednesday on the steps of the Cape Town Civic Centre against what they say is the City of Cape Town’s illegal eviction of people in informal settlements.

As the rain started to pour on Wednesday afternoon, around 50 protesters from the Social Justice Coalition gathered outside the Cape Town Civic Centre, with mattresses. The protesters were residents from informal settlements in Kraaifontein and Khayelitsha, who accuse the City of Cape Town of illegally evicting them.

One resident, Phatishwa Mtsha-Morris from Kraaifontein, told Daily Maverick she can no longer afford to rent and occupied a piece of land, alongside many others in the area. Evictions in the Kraaifontein area have taken place since March, and Mtsha-Morris says her seven children are traumatised every time they see a law enforcement vehicle in the area.

Describing her living conditions, Mtsha-Morris told Daily Maverick “there is no electricity, they (her children) are getting sick… they are drinking unboiled water”.

Mtsha-Morris said while she does not expect a house now, she would “at least like a safe place now”.

The aim of Wednesday’s protest was to highlight the living conditions of the poor facing illegal evictions ahead of a court application being brought against the City of Cape Town.

People may not be evicted without an eviction letter under the Constitution, said Axolile Notywala, general secretary of the Social Justice Coalition.

We’re saying this must stop,” said Notywala, who added that one of the aims of the protest was to highlight poor people’s desperation during the cold and wet winter in Cape Town.

As the rain started to pour, protesters didn’t pack up – they just moved their mattresses out of the rain.

Winter in Cape Town is rough for poor people,” said Notywala, who asked, “Where must people go?”

The SJC was waiting to be addressed by the mayor about illegal evictions and was still awaiting a response on the memorandum handed over during the land for living march on Human Rights Day.

Wednesday’s protest followed the launching of a court application against the City of Cape Town’s evictions on 11 April by 217 occupiers from the Island Informal Settlement in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. The court application was supported by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC). Evictions had taken place in the area between 3 March and 3 April 2018.

The application is for an interdict against the City to prevent it from demolishing the occupiers’ homes and illegally evicting them from the informal settlement.

People have nowhere to go and are in need of homes,” the SJC said.

They are denied their dignity and the government refuses to listen to them. They no longer have homes, but also have no way to hold the City responsible and regain the homes they have lost.”

The application will be heard on Thursday, 3 May at the Western Cape High Court.

At 19:30 on Wednesday, Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development in the City of Cape Town, addressed the protesters.

I am not able to address the questions on evictions. I know that you are in court tomorrow and the law must take its course,” said Herron to the crowd.

However, Herron said he would provide the SJC with a response on the memorandum handed over on Human Rights Day.

Housing is our biggest crisis, not only in Cape Town, but in South Africa,” said Herron.

We need to address it urgently but the numbers of housing that we need to provide far exceeds what we’re able to provide within our budget and human resource capacity,” he told the crowd.

The City has plans to upgrade informal settlements and has plans to look at City-owned land to use as social housing, said Herron. DM


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