“I am not a pilchard, I refuse to live in a tin”
Woodstock evictees offered relocation to Blikkiesdorp and Wolwerivier
Residents facing eviction from their Woodstock homes “have no right or entitlement” to be accommodated at a location of their choice, said the lawyer representing the City of Cape Town.
Tenants in apartments in Albert Road, Woodstock, were given eviction notices in March and April 2017.
During an earlier hearing, the court had asked the City to submit a report on possible alternative places for the residents to live.
On Tuesday, Quinton Williams, for the City of Cape Town, told the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court that the only temporary emergency housing the City could offer the families was in Blikkiesdorp or Wolwerivier. He disputed suggestions made by the tenants that they should be moved to one of the City-owned sites closer to the CBD.
“Both the Delft Symphony Way TRA [temporary relocation area] and Wolwerivier TRA have already undergone scrutiny by the court in other matters. The [tenants] have no right or entitlement to want accommodation at a location of their choice,” Williams told a court packed with tenants and their supporters.
“A lot has been said about the different sites identified by the City earmarked for development. The main criteria for them will be the date of the application. Any other criteria will amount to queue jumping,” he said.
Asked when the housing projects were expected to be completed, Williams said this could take between three and five years. “Sometime last year, a commitment was made by Councillor Brett Herron to expedite the delivery of affordable housing.”
Meanwhile, Williams told the court, Blikkiesdorp was a “suitable offer” because the structures there “are 18 square metres with access to electricity; it is fenced; nearby clinics and schools; and efforts are being made to reduce the high crime rate in the area.”
On Wolwerivier, Williams said the TRA was on the bus and taxi routes, a mobile clinic often visited the area, and transport was being provided to take learners to school.
People sitting in the gallery could be seen shaking their heads in disagreement. One person was heard saying, “It isn’t like that. Has he been there?”
Mark Owen, representing the tenants, argued that the City’s offer to house the residents in Blikkiesdorp and Wolwerivier was tantamount to the discrimination that occurred during apartheid.
“The council are aware of the gentrification that’s been taking place in Woodstock over the past three years. They know that there has been growing displacement of poor people in favour of the more wealthy. What the council has said is tantamount to what transpired during the apartheid government. Except the discrimination now is no longer on the basis of skin colour, but of the person’s ability to afford accommodation in the area they have lived in for years,” he said.
Owen argued that if the City was able to assemble and break down structures at the Wolwerivier site, it should be able to do the same at the City-owned sites within the Woodstock area.
Ahmed Ebrahim, representing the landlord, asked the court to order the tenants to leave the apartments within three months. He said tenants had been given eviction notices nearly a year ago, and that was enough time to look for alternative accommodation.
“A private landowner has no obligation to provide housing for evicted tenants,” he said.
Desiree Ling said her family would suffer if they were to move to Delft or Wolwerivier. “I work near the city centre and my children go to school nearby … I was born in Albert Road. It’s all I know. We don’t want to move far away, but we can’t afford extremely high rentals.”
Delia Fielies is 65 and has been living in the apartment block for the past 36 years. She said, “I’m prepared to move, but into a brick and cement place. I refuse to live in a tin in Wolwerivier or Blikkiesdorp. I’m not a pilchard”.
Fielies walks with great difficulty. She looks after her three young grandchildren. She tearfully told the court how her Albert Road neighbours were her only friends and had become her family. “I’m an only child. I have no other family I can go to … I get a pension and grants for the children but that’s not enough for rent at some of the flats I see going up in Woodstock. We will have to sleep on the streets,” she said.
Ivan Marcus said he works as a cleaner in Woodstock and is able to walk to work. He said that should he be moved out of the area, he would be forced to spend much of his R3,500 salary on transport.
Magistrate Paul Jethro said he would consider what impact the eviction would have on the tenants.
The matter has been postponed until 1 March.
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