Solidarity: Victory for city residents

27 02 2008

21 February 2008
Eric Naki
Source: The Sowetan

RELIEVED: Inner city residents celebrate their constitutional court victory yesterday. PHOTO: MBUZENI ZULU

Human rights and legal groups have welcomed a high court decision to overturn a supreme court of appeal order allowing the Johannesburg City Council to evict inner-city residents from derelict buildings.

On Tuesday, the constitutional court ruled that the supreme court of appeal “should not have granted the order of ejectment” to the city in the absence of meaningful engagement. About 400 families occupy overcrowded buildings in the city.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (Cohre) and the Community Law Centre (CLC) at the University of Western Cape said the judgment was a victory for poor, homeless people.

“For the applicants and poor occupiers more generally, the judgment is a victory”, said Jackie Dugard, senior researcher at the Wits centre.

Stuart Wilson, the centre’s head of litigation, was pleased that the constitutional court had overruled the appeal court and declared Section 12(6) of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act inconsistent with the Constitution.

The section states that anyone who continues to occupy a property after an eviction notice is served is liable to a maximum fine of R100 for each day of unlawful occupation.

The city used this apartheid-era legislation to evict residents on grounds of health and safety.

Jean du Plessis, Cohre’s deputy director, said: “Today’s judgment is a landmark victory for the more than 67000 low-income residents of Johannesburg who risk overcrowded living conditions with poor sanitation and the constant threat of eviction, to be near livelihood opportunities.

“It affirms that public authorities must engage seriously and in good faith with the affected occupiers with a view to finding humane and pragmatic solutions. Such respectful, face-to-face engagement gives effect to the constitutional value of human dignity, as well as the right of access to adequate housing enshrined in the Constitution.”

Lilian Chenwi, senior researcher at the CLC, said: “The judgment gives effect to South Africa’s constitutional commitment to respect and protect housing rights and is also in accordance with relevant international legal standards.

“In all evictions, local authorities must take people’s housing rights seriously and seek reasonable ways to avoid the devastation of homelessness by engaging meaningfully with the affected communities.”

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Press Alert: Arson in Delft by known supporters of the DA

26 02 2008

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Release
February 26, 2008 at 22h15

The homeless residents of Delft condemn today’s arson by two men who have been supporting the DA.

According to residents, a number of DA supporters from section one have been threatening families saying “If you don’t stand with us [the DA], then we will burn your things down to the ground”. At about 20h30 today, two men from the section one settlement (where supporters of the DA are staying) were seen running away from one of the section two residents burning shack. The shack, being the last in the row and the closest to the section one settlement, is further proof that this was arson caused by DA supporters.

However, the section two residents have now rallied in support of this family who has lost their makeshift home and all their possessions. They have helped the family of five build a new shack to sleep in and are providing them with much needed moral support. However, according to leaders in the community, the household still needs blankets and a mattress to sleep on.

Please show solidarity towards the homeless of Delft in this trying time of sabotage and suffering. No human being deserves to have their home and all their belongings burned down as part of a political war that the DA is waging against homeless Delft residents that refuse to do their bidding.

 

Please call 078-775-4687 for comment.

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DA and police remove tents in Anti-Eviction section of Delft, leave their own tents standing

25 02 2008
Urgent Media Update from the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
Monday 25 February 2008
3:10pm
DELFT, CAPE TOWN – The Democratic Alliance (DA) controlled City of Cape Town along with scores of heavily armed police have just stolen four large tents donated by Islamic Relief to the homeless, evicted people of Delft, who are currently sleeping outside on Symphony Way.
The DA City of Cape Town claims that these tents are a “fire hazard”.
However, just metres away in the DA Councillor Frank Martin controlled section of Symphony Way, the City has actually provided the same kind of tents for the people. Needless to say, these “fire hazards” have been left standing by the DA.
The Anti-Eviction Campaign is deeply angered. These four tents were supposed to be used for the children to play in, and in case of rain.
This is a good example of how all the political parties are totally against the poor. The ANC said last week that it completely supported the eviction of the Delft residents from the houses they had occupied, even though it knew that these vulnerable people had nowhere to return to.
The DA, who supported the occupation, is now using the police to repress the majority of the Delft residents who have rejected their racist, self-promoting DA Councillor. The DA is now trying to starve these residents into submission by blocking food aid to them and exposing their small babies and children to the elements by removing their tents. However, there are no signs that the residents are willing or interested in giving up their peoples’ power to be used as pawns by the DA.
For comment from the scene please call 076 1861408




Police set up 2 illegal roadblocks in Delft to prevent relief from reaching the people

25 02 2008

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Alert
Monday 25th February 2008 at 2pm

** Media are called urgently to rush to the scene at Delft **

DELFT, CAPE TOWN – The police have set up two roadblocks on each side of Symphony Way, which is the Delft road being occupied by the 1600 people who were evicted from the occupied houses last week. The police are using the roadblocks to refuse media and relief trucks entrance to the area. Islamic Relief was turned away with a big cargo of food, blankets, tenting and nappies that is desperately needed by the people.

The police are telling the media and the relief trucks that the Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) are the ones who refuse to let them inside. This is completely untrue, as the AEC has always been on good terms with the media and all of Cape Town’s charities and relief agencies and has in fact been visiting the relief agencies personally over the past week to call for aid for the Delft residents.

Currently Symphony Way is split into two sections, one affiliated to the AEC and one affiliated to DA Councillor Frank Martin. The majority of the people of Delft are extremely disillusioned with Councillor Frank Martin and have moved to the section of the road affiliated to AEC.

Frank Martin who simply incited people to occupy the houses on the racist basis that it would be unfair for those houses to be given to Black people from Joe Slovo. Thereafter he did nothing to support the people who faced an immediate eviction. He did not contribute in any way to the legal struggle and he has also continued with his racism about housing in SA only being given to “blacks” which is completely untrue and is not in any way what AEC believes. Read the rest of this entry »





Urgent Press Release: Delft homeless are now being evicted from their tents!

24 02 2008

Sunday, 24th February, 2008

18:40

The provincial Social Welfare Department and the Democratic Alliance’s Dan Plato are threatening Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) because the charity has put up tents for the recently evicted residents of Delft. They are threatening tear down the tents as we speak.

According to Achmat from IRW: “The Social Welfare department of the province went to the police to lay a charge for the erection of illegal structures. They demanded that IRW remove the structures [tents] immediately”.

Achmat also claims he has received a call form Dan Plato threatening Islamic Relief Worldwide that if they do not remove all tents by tonight, the City of Cape Town with the backing of the police will come in unilaterally and remove it themselves.

For comment and specifics on the threat, please call Achmat from IRW on 079-139-7101.

The Anti-Eviction Campaign along with IRW requests anyone concerned to come immediately to Symphony Road in Delft where residents are living. By 19h30, the City of Cape Town is planning to remove the tents and render residents vulnerable once again to the harsh elements of the area.





Gympie Street Residents Committee Press Release

24 02 2008
20th February 2008
4pm

For comment: Gympie Street lawyer Advocate Zehir Omar – 011 8151720 or 082 4925207 or Willy Heyn on 073 1443619

The Gympie Street Residents Co-ordinating Committee of 6 people will appear in the Cape Town magistrates court again on Monday 25th February 2008.

This after they were all arrested in a dawn raid by Woodstock police and unlawfully charged with contravening the High Court eviction order that was handed down against them in 2006.

None of the residents contravened the High Court Eviction Order granted to the owner of the Gympie Street flats in 2006. The order was for an eviction of the residents, but after spending 6 weeks living on the pavement outside their homes in the winter (the City having failed to provide alternative accommodation) the residents went back into the flats, but NOT the flats they were evicted from. They went to live in each other’s flats. This nullified the court order. It was then up to the owner of the flats to get a new court order against the occupants which he failed to do.

The Co-ordinating Committee are a courageous group of impoverished people who are making a stand against gentrification of the city by property developers. They are Willy Heyn; Margaret Petersen (single mother of two children, the youngest being 12 years old); Lydia Portland (single mother looking after two children of her own and three of her sister’s children who is currently in hospital – one of these children is 3 yrs old); Marietta Monagee (single mother of three children aged 5, 8 and 10yrs old); Sarah Jones (looking after her grandchildren who live with her – aged 2, 3, 5 and 6 years old) and Zubeida Brown (single mother of 4 kids – one who is 20 years old is in a wheelchair since birth, completely dependent on her mother for all aspects of her care.)

The backdrop to this story is a real tale of tragedy. These residents were paying their rent every month for years despite the owner never doing maintenance on the flats which are in a hazardous and rundown condition. Most of the residents are either jobless or doing casual domestic or factory work at pay of R50 per day so they have nowhere else to go and no possibility of renting other flats.

After the owner got a High Court eviction order against them last year, the residents were evicted to the pavement. The city refused to find suitable alternative accommodation for them despite there being available accommodation in Woodstock at the former hospital, which is standing 90% empty. About 100 people then slept and lived on the pavements in this crowded city area for about five weeks. The city told them to move to Happy Valley where each family would be given three sticks and a heavy piece of plastic to build a shelter. The residents refused because all their children are in Woodstock schools and because many of them are ill and cannot go and live in the sand far from the city.

Some residents were persuaded by the council to visit Happy Valley and see if it would be suitable. When those residents got there, they had the fright of their lives when the existing residents of Happy Valley told the Gympie Street residents that they would “burn them out on the first day” if they moved to Happy Valley.

As such, the residents are terrified of moving to Happy Valley, and at the same time are being forced out of Woodstock by a property developer. Their options are zero, which is unacceptable because the City has a responsibility to house the poor. The City has tried to dodge its responsibility by saying this is a private matter however, the Gympie Street residents are the City’s responsibility because these are poor people who should long ago have been allocated council housing like others on the waiting list.

Communities have vowed to mobilise to support the Gympie Street residents, as they did last year.

See also: ‘I live here or I die’ from the Mail & Guardian





Pictures of Delft evictions and police brutality

22 02 2008

18 February, 2008 – The day before the evictions

19 February, 2008 – Evictins begin; police open fire on residents.