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Court ruling takes City of Cape Town one step closer to evicting occupants of old Woodstock Hospital

Court ruling takes City of Cape Town one step closer to evicting occupants of old Woodstock Hospital
Residents living in the Cissie Gool House (former Woodstock Hospital) protest outside the Cape Town High Court on 22 April 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The Western Cape High Court has granted an order which will allow the City of Cape Town to identify and count the people who have been living in the former Woodstock Hospital for four years.

First published by GroundUp

Housing activist group Reclaim the City has said that this application by the City of Cape Town will be the first step in its plan to evict the group of roughly 900 people who have been living in what is known as Cissie Gool House since 2017.

On Thursday, the City of Cape Town and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), representing the occupiers, entered into settlement negotiations. An order was granted by the court which will allow both the City and CALS to record the biographical details of the occupants.

“CALS has three months and 10 days in which to do this. The City will file a report within six months of receipt of the [CALS] spreadsheet,” said Basetsana Koitsioe of CALS.

The report provided by the City will show whether the City has engaged with the occupiers on whether they are prepared to vacate Cissie Gool House; whether they will require alternative accommodation if they are not willing to vacate and are evicted; and whether they qualify for available state subsidised housing, emergency housing or social housing.

Residents living in Cissie Gool House (former Woodstock Hospital) protest outside the Cape Town High Court. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The occupiers wanted CALS rather than the City to do the survey, and for those occupiers represented by CALS, this is what will now happen. It was also agreed between the two parties that the City should give 48 hours notice to CALS if they intend to survey occupiers who are not legally represented.

“This is important so we can give notice to [the represented occupiers] that the City will be on the property on said date to avoid our clients being surveyed unknowingly or by force… or intimidated by City officials as previously experienced by our clients,” said Koitsioe.

“This brings the City closer to its plans to drive social housing and reverse the toxic legacy of organised building hijackings which took place in March 2017,” said the City in a statement on Thursday. The City is planning to develop 700 social housing units on the property, a project which has been delayed by the occupation.

In its statement, the City said that crime, rent extortion rackets, violence and mob activity has increased substantially since 2017 “to the detriment of the surrounding community”.

Cissie Gool House (former Woodstock Hospital). (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The City also said that it would pursue eviction proceedings if occupiers did not willingly leave the site.

But according to Reclaim the City, hundreds of families have made Cissie Gool House their home, and have turned it into “a place of hope”.

“We have kept the buildings clean, safe and well-maintained (often using what little money and skills we have to clean and maintain the buildings),” the organisation said in a statement on 21 April. 

“We have managed and implemented a variety of social development projects including our community food garden, feeding scheme and educational projects on gender-based violence.”

GroundUp has previously visited Cissie Gool House and reported on how residents dealt with challenges of the lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic. DM

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