| CAPE TOWN

Circus occupiers picket for housing

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Occupiers are expected back in court next month

Photo of protesters
Activists from Reclaim the City and people occupying a former circus premises in Observatory protested in Wale Street on Thursday night against the evictions. They reiterated the call for more affordable housing in the inner city. Photo: Karabo Mafolo
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About 40 people gathered at the provincial legislature in Wale Street on Thursday to protest the eviction of a group of people living at the former South African National Circus School premises in Observatory.

The group of occupiers have been embroiled in ongoing court battles with the City of Cape Town since mid 2018, when they were given notices to vacate the property. There are currently about 25 people still living on the property.

Circus founder Dimitri Slaverse started to illegally sublet the property, which belongs to the City, in early 2016. At the time the people living on the land were paying Slaverse around R1,000 for rent. After a number of extensions, the lease was terminated on 30 June 2017.

The circus has since closed down. According to court documents, the property has been earmarked for sporting and recreational purposes and will form part of the Hartleyvale sporting precinct.

On Thursday, activists, some of the occupiers and their supporters gathered in town in the hope of bringing to light the need for affordable housing closer to the inner city. Members of Reclaim the City and Ndifuna Ukwazi were also present.

“I’m supporting them because I believe their eviction is unjust. More affordable housing is needed in the inner city. I’m here to support affordable housing to be made available,” said Vivian Hobbs, a social worker who works with homeless people.

The occupiers include hairdressers, clowns and people from various professions. They have also started a vegetable garden to sustain themselves.

“If they’re out in the streets, they have no other place to stay,” said Sandra Bodrad, an architect who has been helping with the vegetable garden.

Karen Hendricks from Reclaim The City said the City’s plan to evict the occupiers was further evidence that it “prioritised the needs of the rich over the housing needs of the marginalised”.

Later in the evening, protesters moved from Wale Street to Greenmarket Square where the City was hosting a free First Thursdays’ concert.

“Thank you for the support. It’s so overwhelming but what’s also overwhelming is how many people are homeless,” John Brophy, who lives in the circus building, told the occupation supporters.

The occupiers are expected to return to court next month to oppose their eviction.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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