As most Capetonians went about their day happily on Monday August 8, the promise of the public holiday looming like the warm mid-morning sun, anxiety permeated the air in Bromwell Street, Woodstock.
While youngsters played games or listened to music on their cellphones, a group of older residents gathered nervously in the middle of the street.
Word had spread that this was the day the sheriff of the court would finally arrive to deliver the fateful blow, executing an order to remove 28 people and their families from the only homes they had ever known.
Residents had sent several representatives to the Cape Town High Court in a desperate last-ditch effort to stay the order.
The strained faces of those on Bromwell Street told the story as they waited for word. Any word.
Among them was Nooraan Dreyer, one of the residents who, by virtue of a court agreement, brokered a fortnight ago is living rent-free in nearby Alfred Street for the next four months (“Call for affordable rentals,” Tatler, August 4). After that, Ms Dreyer, her husband, Redewaan, children and grandchildren will be expected to pack up their belongings.
“I don’t know what I am going to do. But what I can tell you is that I will not leave this place. I am not prepared to live on the outskirts of Cape Town,” she said.
“One of my children is an A student at Wesley Practising School (in Salt River) and I would have to take him from there if we had to move. Not only that, but I would have to take him to a place where there is gangsterism and drugs. I am not going to do that.”
Daphne Nel was born at 124 Bromwell Street and now lives in a single room in a house a little down the road.
“I have lived here all my life. I was born here, and it’s all I know. I learnt about a year ago that this (eviction) was happening. There is an auntie here who is 75-years-old, and now they want to kick her out. But we must stand together as a group,” Ms Nel said.
Bevil Lucas of local community action group the Housing Assembly said the property owners, identified as the Woodstock Hub, had increased their security presence in the area recently.
“You can see there are security guards here now. We have sent people to court to stop the evictions, but our other option is public protest,” Mr Lucas said.
“These families are being marginalised. Most do not have a regular income, which means that, in the event of them being evicted, they will struggle to rent somewhere else. They are extremely vulnerable.”
Mr Lucas believes the “whole fabric of Woodstock is being undone” by the eviction threat.
“The owners of the Woodstock Hub are faceless. In years gone by, there was engagement with the residents, but we don’t even know who these people are.
“All we have heard is that they want to demolish these homes to make way for a parking lot.”
By day’s end, the residents were no clearer as to their futures. The threat of the sheriff had passed, at least for another few days as the court hearing was postponed to Wednesday August 10.
Investment group Trematon Capital Investments Limited lists the Woodstock Hub as a 50% joint venture.
Queries sent to Trematon CEO Arnold Shapiro had not been responded to by the time this edition went to print.