Courts in Cape Town have been inundated with eviction cases recently, most of which coming from the Woodstock, Salt River and Maitland areas. Over the past few months, several news stories have shed light on cases where either single tenants or large groups are being evicted and subsequently left homeless. Community researcher and co-ordinator for non-profit organisation, Open Up, Deena Bosch said that these evictions are not only state evictions, but are rather evictions predominantly carried out by property developers who have secured property from private landowners. Bosch said property developers were eager to get rid of tenants who have lived in these areas for generations.
A recent case which has caused public outcry is the case of an 80-year-old man and his family who lived in their Woodstock home for over 40 years.
Open Up works with Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi to provide research on affordable housing and methods to make such housing more accessible, particularly within the inner City. The organization released a report for the July, August and September months, where it had monitored the number of eviction cases processed through the Cape Town magistrates’ courts.
Monitoring of the court procedures on eviction cases include: how many evictions are taking place, how many people are being evicted, whether these people have legal representation and whether courts are fulfilling their constitutional duty in cases of evictions.
“No evictions should lead to homelessness, that’s what our constitution says,” highlighted Bosch.
She added that the City of Cape Town (CoCT) should arrange alternative accommodation for those who have nowhere else to go. The CoCT is not fulfilling their duty in this regard, according to her.
“Emergency or alternative accommodation offered in Cape Town is a few pieces of material for building a shack. People have to find their own land – private land. Owners must give permission to erect a shack there.”
“The City of Cape Town is placing their constitutional duty to find emergency accommodation onto private entities in the city.”
Bosch said that the magistrate’s courts should not allow this to take place as there are Constitutional Court guidelines for emergency housing. Lawyers representing both parties should ideally be questioning whether or not this process is being followed through.
Again, according to Bosch, this is not happening.
Some of the reasons cited for evictions are due to development – mostly happening in and around the inner-city areas -, the rise in rental costs and different employment factors of tenants.
“Living in the inner-city has become so unaffordable, that they have to leave.”
Bosch shared the case of an 80-year-old woman facing an eviction, who is expected to appear in court next week for the second time. The reasons surrounding her eviction relate to the landlord’s interest on arrears owed by the elderly woman. The Rental Housing Tribunal, however, found that the increase made by the landlord was unreasonable.
Bosch said that the woman has lived in that house for more than 50 years and did not have anywhere else to go.
“The responsibility then falls on the City to find alternative accommodation in this case.”
However, Bosch added that the CoCT has no plans to provide housing within the inner-city.
“Their way of thinking about housing and accommodation is outdated. It belongs in Apartheid South Africa,” she said.
Bosch calls on the broader community to get involved in court monitoring procedures and to come out and support those who are in court facing evictions. She would like to see community activists, academic institutions, law schools and advice officers working together to monitor and map out what takes place in the 14 magistrate courts and high courts and to provide support.
The following website explains how lawful evictions should take place: evictions.org.za