Protesters disrupt auction of evicted family’s house

Auctioneer says City of Cape Town “jumped through hoops” for evictees

Photo of auction

Reclaim the City activists disrupted the auction of the Woodstock house from which a family was evicted. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

By Drew Wayland

17 September 2019

Housing and community activists disrupted a property auction in Mouille Point on Tuesday to protest against the eviction of 80-year-old Kenneth Blaine and his family.

The protesters and the Blaine family claim that they were given no prior notice of their eviction and no alternative housing for the night, forcing them to sleep on the street. (See earlier article: 80-year-old Woodstock man evicted from his home of 43 years.)

After the first property on the list was sold, more than a dozen activists interrupted the auction with singing and chants of “No auction!” The protesters argued with auctioneer Andrew Koch for more than an hour before the event was officially cancelled. Koch is the Executive Director of Claremart, which has a contract with the City of Cape Town to sell its properties.

“Evictions that lead to homelessness are illegal and unconstitutional,” said Nkosikhona Swaartbooi, a member of housing activist group Reclaim the City. “Where was the alternative housing for this man and his family?”

GroundUp received word on Tuesday from the City of Cape Town’s media liaison office that the City is investigating the eviction. Koch announced just before the auction began that the Plein Street property had been illegally occupied, and that all legal processes had been followed to accommodate the residents.

“The [City] council jumped through all the necessary hoops and gave the people more than adequate time,” said Koch.

Kenneth Blaine and his son Alain remained outside the house in Woodstock during the auction. When questioned about the auctioneer’s comments, they reaffirmed their claim that they had been given no options for alternative housing, and no warning of eviction.

“We had nowhere to go,” said Joanne Blaine, Alain’s wife. “They didn’t tell us anything.”

However, after the auction was disrupted, GroundUp spoke to a member of Reclaim the City who said the family had come to one of the organisation’s meetings more than a week before the eviction took place to ask for the group’s assistance.

“That is how we knew to come yesterday,” he said. Nevertheless, he said: “I don’t think they knew what was going to happen.”

Members of other organisations were at the auction protesting against the sale of different properties, including a community garden in Bonteheuwel and a disputed lot in Steenberg.

Update with City comment on 18 September, 9:30am

City of Cape Town spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said that the City has been engaging with the occupants since 2014 and has followed all due processes. “A notice was served on the occupants in July 2019. Numerous extensions were granted to the occupants since 2014 to vacate the property and they were granted adequate time to find alternative accommodation.”

“The family has today [18 September] reoccupied the property, illegally,” said Tyhalibongo. “The City is reviewing its position.”