The fighting spirit Bromwell Street residents and supporters showed at a press conference last week faded on Tuesday in the Western Cape High with Judge Leslie Weinkove being accused of showing little sympathy for their plight.
Residents scowled as Judge Weinkove appeared to find little merit in the argument by Sheldon Mugardie, the residents’ lawyer that the City of Cape Town had treated them unfairly and ignored their concerns about being moved to emergency housing in far-flungWolwerivier.
Mr Mugardie said a municipality should consider where people were employed and he questioned the City’s contention that the only available housing was in Wolwerivier, more than 20km from the city.
Mr Mugardie said there were unused plots in Woodstock that could accommodate the residents – 16 adults and 11 children being evicted by property developers, The Woodstock Hub.
However, when Judge Weinkove learnt those plots had been listed in an affidavit by Bromwell street resident Charnell Commando, he said, “Ms Commando is a kitchen assistant in Observatory. Is she an expert about parcels of land?
“She says it’s suitable for housing or the very least, emergency housing. She doesn’t know the budget of the City. She doesn’t know this stuff. She is a kitchen assistant,” said Judge Weinkove while residents gasped.
Judge Weinkove said the properties listed by Ms Commando, which he said included a public park, were “ridiculous”.
Mr Mugardie replied that the properties listed were intended to paint a picture of the possibilities available for the residents, and he wanted to show land was being held back deliberately from residents. He wanted to determine whether the City had considered the residents’ concerns about Wolwerivier.
“Employment, schooling, (the City) has a duty to regard this. We are trying to access whether their response demonstrates that consideration was given to the distance for residents from Wolwerivier,” said Mr Mugardie.
Judge Weinkove said taxis and Golden Arrow buses serviced Wolverivier and that people staying in Somerset West had further to travel to get to town than those coming from Wolwerivier. He said Somerset West residents were prepared to live there despite having to face heavy traffic to get to work.
To this, one of the Bromwell Street supporters remarked, “They’re rich, not poor. There is no comparison.”
Mr Mugardie implored the judge to not a adopt a “one-size-fits-all approach” as each case was different.
“Past spatial planning and development planning need to be addressed. It does not seem like the City and other municipalities are willing to address this,” said Mr Mugardie speaking about the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.
“None (of the suggestions) indicate that next week we can re-house all these people. It seeks a long-term solution. In the meantime, should applicants stay on in Woodstock? What you want to do is re-write the political situation in this country,” said Judge Weinkove.
The court case continues and arguments from the City’s lawyer and other stakeholders are expected to be heard this week.