About 60 tenants facing eviction together with supporters of Reclaim the City, picketed outside the home of Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, early on Tuesday morning.
The group are calling for the City of Cape Town to offer “better emergency housing sites” for those facing eviction and for its affordable housing projects to be fast tracked. Many of the people attending the picket live near the inner city and are currently opposing their evictions in court.
They are refusing the City’s offer of alternative accommodation at the transitional housing sites of Blikkiesdorp and Wolwervier.
At 5:30am Herron was asked to join several picketers seated at a breakfast table set up in the street in front of his house in Newlands. The other picketers, holding posters and a large banner, sat in the street around the table.
“This is not fair. The last time we met in the church at your request, we agreed that you were going to ask your ward councillor to arrange a public meeting and I would attend it. I don’t want to be accused wrongly,” Herron said.
Desiree Ling, who is facing eviction from Albert Road, Woodstock, said people were tired of waiting for the City to provide affordable housing opportunities. “The time for housing is now. Housing has always been an issue. This is why people are occupying places like the Woodstock Day Hospital because council really needs to step up and move fast,” she said.
Maxine Bezuidenhout of Reclaim the City said that the organisation had been monitoring eviction cases at the courts, including the Albert Road matter. “The courts are still granting evictions every day and the people are being sent to Wolwerivier. In your speeches you always say that where people live matters, but the courts are saying different things,” she told Herron.
“The City’s legal team paints the picture that Blikkiesdorp and Wolwerivier are these wonderful places where there are facilities and schools nearby. When the City’s legal counsel says that in front of a court, that is lying under oath … It’s very disingenuous and humiliating to the people who stay there and who will have to go there to hear those things in a court that is meant to be a beacon of justice,” she said.
Herron replied, “I have told you many times how uncomfortable I am with Wolwerivier as the only site we have to offer. Since the day I was appointed, I said that we need to do more, but it won’t happen overnight. If you get evicted today, there is nothing other than Wolwerivier that the City can offer.”
Herron said the first transitional housing project, to be built in Pickwick Street, would only be ready for occupation by the end of the year. “It is meant to accommodate those in Pine Street so we can unlock that project for development. I don’t believe that people who are evicted in one part of the city should have to move far away, but unfortunately it’s just not ready,” he said.
“The Minister has just increased the qualifying threshold for social housing up to R15,000 per household. That means that a lot more people who are actually working in the city but can’t afford to live there can now be accommodated at our sites,” he said.
Many of the picketers thanked Herron for making himself available and said he was “one of the only politicians” to consider their frustrations by agreeing to address them at his home early on Tuesday.
The group also asked Herron to tell the courts not to grant evictions until the City could provide transitional housing other than Wolwerivier and Blikkiesdorp.
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