Evicted residents want to move back to the city

Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town’s evicted residents from areas such as Gympie Street in Woodstock want the provincial government to use Tafelberg and other available state-owned land for affordable housing.

Lobby group Reclaim the City (RTC) held a public meeting in Green Point yesterday where evicted residents were able to share ideas on how to respond to a 21-day public participation process on how to use the defunct Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point.

The Western Cape High Court late last month prevented the provincial department of transport and public works from selling Tafelberg for R135-million to a private school.

It found the department did not do enough to consult the public on how to use the government-owned land.

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PUBLIC TALKS: Reclaim The City lobby group gathered various voices who want the Cape’s political leadership to ensure affordable innercity housing. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

RTC’s campaign for affordable housing, particularly focused on four prime properties, has raised questions about the Western Cape government and City of Cape Town’s commitment to create affordable housing near the city centre.

Premier Helen Zille, who was dragged to court in the RTC matter, said after the court ruling her government was committed though to create housing for the poor.

Gympie Street’s working class residents who were moved to Blikkiesdorp in 2009 said the local government kept pushing up rentals until they could no longer afford to live near the city.

State-owned properties are then allegedly sold to private developers, leading to large swathes of gentrification as visible in Woodstock.

At yesterday’s meeting, Sarah Jones said she was 10 years old when her family first moved to Gympie Street. She is now 59 and a few years ago was evicted from the state-owned flats where rentals were increased.

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BACK TO THE CITY: Leonora Jones, left, and Sarah Jones are former long-term residents of Gympie Street in Woodstock. The claim the City of Cape Town’s rentals kept rising until they could not afford it and were evicted to Blikkiesdorp. They say they want affordable housing back near the city where they belong. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“I had all my children in Gympie Street. I don’t like it in Blikkiesdorp. Children are raped and murdered there,” said Jones.

“The rent kept going up in Gympie Street and people there were unemployed and couldn’t pay rent. We were evicted and moved to Blikkiesdorp.

“There’s a lot of open land. The government can us it for houses and move us back to the city. Blikkiesdorp is very far for us.”

Another evicted Gympie Street resident, Leonora Jones, said she was first evicted under apartheid laws from District Six where she was born.

Years later she moved to Gympie Street from where she and her two children were evicted in 2009.

“My two children were born there and went school there. I had a job a stone’s throw from our house,” she said.

“When we had to move my children lost two years of their schooling. There are no schools in Blikkiesdorp and we didn’t have transport to their school in Woodstock.”

She added: “I think there are open fields and the government can build houses there for us. We stayed near town and could walk to the city. We want to move back.”

Tafelberg is one of four sites the provincial government offers as “four prime opportunities for investors”.

The other three are the Helen Bowden Nurses Home near the Cape Town Stadium, Top Yard near Parliament, and the Alfred Street Complex in Green Point.

Weekend Argus found two other abandoned state-owned properties in Sea Point that locals have said could also be used for affordable housing.

The one property is Rocklands Villas, behind the national broadcaster SABC, and the other is Wynyard Mansions behind the Tafelberg property on Sea Point’s main road.

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FENCED UP: Rocklands Villas are state-owned flats that remain unused in Sea Point, where lobby groups say affordable housing is lacking. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Queries to the relevant government authorities about the future of these properties were unanswered at the time of going to print.

Mandisa Shandu, an attorney with the Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre that took RTC’s matter to court, said yesterday the campaign would now assist the public to make submissions on what Tafelberg should be used for.

“We have residents from all over the city at the meeting to express an interest in access to affordable housing. Tafelberg is a practical and symbolic site for affordable housing in he city,” she said.

“There are people with a common grievance of having been forced out of their (state-owned) rental properties. More has to be done to protect people being evicted.”

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DENIED ACCESS: Wynyard Mansions is another dilapidated state-owned property right behind the contested Tafelberg school property in Sea Point. Locals say local officials need to unlock land for affordable housing. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Residents from De Waal Drive properties owned by the provincial government last week marched to human settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela’s office in central Cape Town as they too face possible eviction.

In what has become a common thread – and threat – they have been told their rent is to be increased. If unable to cough up, they would be evicted.

People from Naruna Estate, Rugby and Sanddrift accompanied De Waal Drive residents as they are all in the same boat.

Madikizela’s office reportedly said the department was meeting with residents.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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