Bromwell Street residents stand up

Children paint posters for the Resist Eviction: Stand with Bromwell Street protest on Saturday August 27.

Residents who face eviction in Bromwell Street, Woodstock, have dismissed a statement to the media from the Woodstock Hub, the owner of the properties, as “doing nothing for us”.

The statement, released by Woodstock Hub director Jacques van Embden on Tuesday August 30, follows a much publicised protest against the evictions of 28 Bromwell Street families last weekend.

Mr Van Embden sought to “rectify certain misconceptions and our plan for moving ahead” with the properties, while he and his fellow directors also pledged to kick-start a crowd-funding initiative for the Bromwell Street occupants, to which the Woodstock Hub directors would contribute R50 000.

However, for Bromwell Street resident and the families’ spokesperson, Charnell Commando, the only point worth noting in the statement was that the residents would not be granted another extension on the eviction deadline of September 9.

“The property was purchased over two years ago with the intent to add much-needed density to the Woodstock area and the end result will be 50 to 75 high-density middle-income rental homes that will not only become additional urban homes, but also create jobs in the process,” Mr Van Embden wrote.

Ms Commando said while she had been made aware of the contents of the statement, it “meant nothing”.

“They sent this to the media, but we still do not know what’s going on. They (directors) have still not met with us. We as residents have received nothing from them,” she said.

“Like we have been saying all along, we want them to come and meet with us face to face. We need confirmation from them about what is happening.”

All that was clear was that the sheriff of the court would be coming to evict them after September 9, she said.

“They are going to put us out. Why are they now talking about starting a crowd-funding campaign? How is that going to help us find a new place to live?”

Asked her views on the pledge of R50 000 from the Woodstock Hub, Ms Commando said the money would not go far.

“There are 28 families here. That money would not even pay all their rent for a month.”

In the statement, Mr Van Embden wrote that the media had incorrectly reported that no previous notices and communications had been issued to the tenants of Bromwell Street, “when in fact a number of notices had been served and received, starting with the first notice that was issued and receipt acknowledged by the occupants as early as 2013”.

“From here onwards a number of notices and extensions were granted, as well as one of the vacant homes being secured by our staff, who interacted with the neighbours. Contrary to allegations, we did interact with the occupants, including a proposal for free rental and utilities for three months in 2014 when the matter was taken by the occupants to the rental housing tribunal.”

Mr Van Embden said the directors recognised the urban housing crisis was an “extremely serious issue” that affected the “whole nation and not just Cape Town”.

“Inspired by housing forums hosted in Cape Town in March and forums on urban development held recently in Gauteng, we would like to become a part of the solution. As such we are working towards engaging with the City of Cape Town, other developers, relevant NGOs and various stakeholders in setting up a forum to determine how best these stakeholders can collaborate in making a positive and effective contribution on urban housing development.”

The protest at the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday was organised by the activist group Reclaim the City, and saw more than 100 demonstrators waving placards to raise awareness about the evictions.

“The Old Biscuit Mill occupation, which was disciplined and peaceful, also sends a message to Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille: you must stand with poor families in Woodstock and other areas near the inner-city which have become unaffordable for black and coloured working class people. You must protect residents against predatory developers and forced removals,” Reclaim the City said.