Some of the more than 200 people who had been evicted from the Arcadia Place Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged (CPOA) home in Observatory are still living on its front lawns.
The group had illegally occupied the abandoned building and were removed by the Sheriff of the High Court assisted by private security and police last Wednesday, October 2.
Many of them come from informal settlements such as Khayelitsha, Langa, Nyanga East and Gugulethu.
They are camped out on the front lawn with all their possessions including mattresses, clothes, blankets and furniture, while the gates of Arcadia Place are locked.
Their spokesperson, Bandile Enoch, from Langa, who came with his three-year-old daughter, said they lived in the building for two weeks before they were evicted.
“Most of the challenges faced is that there are children here and people who have diabetes and disabled people, we are homeless and we previously stayed in shacks.”
Mr Enoch said they had not intended to stay at Arcadia Place permanently but only wanted to attract the attention of the government so that they could be given proper housing.
CPOA spokesperson, Sandi Gelderbloem said Acadia Place had been abandoned since the end of February because it had become unsafe for habitation.
“We have reported these people to the Anti-Land Invasion Unit since they are illegally occupying the front lawn which is City land,” she said.
Ms Gelderbloem said management engaged directly with the occupiers on Saturday September 21 about why the building needed to be demolished and what was intended for the site.
“The occupiers responded that they would not leave the building until alternative accommodation was offered by the government,” she said.
Ms Gelderbloem said the site had been subdivided, “Half the site has been sold to a developer for an extension of the existing Pick * Pay; above the extension, apartments will be built that are also intended for social housing.”
She said the CPOA would rebuild Arcadia Place on the remaining part of the land in order to accommodate the previous residents and to provide welfare retirement to additional needy elderly people.
Construction will only start once the old Arcadia Place is demolished.
The CPOA is concerned that occupiers will hinder building work by interfering with construction workers and that they may be injured during the demolition process and construction, said Ms Gelderbloem.
The City’s Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said the City’s Human Settlements Directorate was expected to deliver projects to the value of almost R2.7 billion over the next three years as part of its continued efforts to improve the lives of Cape Town’s more vulnerable residents.
“It is therefore pertinent for people to register on the housing database in order to be considered for a housing opportunity,” he said.
Mr Booi said the City would continue to assess City-owned land, including suitable land in and near the Cape Town CBD, to determine whether some of these properties could be developed for housing opportunities.
Another occupant, Salonica Mbambani, 32, from Gugulethu, who stayed at Arcadia Place with her eight-year-old son, said all of them had previously lived in shacks, “which is not safe”.
Ms Mbambani said the shacks flooded in winter and there was always the risk of their homes going up in flames as people lit fires to cook and keep warm.
“We saw this empty building as an opportunity to move in as we have been applying for housing from the City and did not get any response.
Ms Mbambani said they found out about the building from someone who worked in the area who had noticed the building was unoccupied.
Mr Enoch said they had an advocate, whom did not want to name, representing them to get a court order last Thursday October 3 in order to move back in the CPOA, but the court told him that it was privately owned so the occupants must go.
Mr Enoch said a member of the community had raised funds for them to buy tents so that they could sleep on the front lawn of the CPOA.
Seven tents have been erected in front of the old CPOA. There are also placards hanging outside of the tents highlighting the occupants’ needs for social housing.