Small victory for hospital occupiers

The old Woodstock Hospital.

An attorney for Reclaim the City (RTC) says a City of Cape Town interdict brings some certainty, to those illegally occupying the old Woodstock Hospital site.

The City obtained a final interdict on Wednesday January 31 against further illegal occupation of the site.

To date, there are about 700 families living at 77 Mountain Road, which was illegally occupied in March 2017.

RTC attorney Jonty Cogger said the order stemmed from an urgent interdict the City obtained last year against a planned Open House at the hospital, which was to coincide with the Open Streets event.

He said the event would have allowed members of the public to view the occupation and was to include a photo exhibition of the families living in the home.

He said the City, however, claimed the event would encourage large scale land invasion and was granted the interim order.

Mr Cogger said RTC had met with City officials last month, to finalise the list and details of the illegal occupiers, which has been included in the final order.

He said those on the list would have access to the premises and would not be faced with random evictions by law enforcement.

“While the City can still go the legal route for evictions, for now it gives the occupiers some certainty,” he said.

“We are waiting on the City to decide the way forward, but with the election looming, one doesn’t know what they will decide.”

Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said Western Cape government owned the building but the City had control of it through a power of attorney and had not made any final decisions on its future.

Mr Booi said the building’s security had a list of the verified occupiers.

The court order prohibited existing occupiers from extending or adding to structures or bringing in furniture.

Mr Cogger said the order was a small victory for the occupiers.

“This is big for people who have faced evictions. It’s a small but big step and will help to restore their dignity,” he said.

Mr Cogger said the City had still not come forward with viable alternatives for the illegal occupiers.

The Wolwerivier relocation camp was not an option, he said.

“The City needs to come up with suitable options, as we cannot have 700 people, including children, evicted into homelessness,” he said.

Faghmeeda Ling, a member of Reclaim the City and an evictee from Albert Road, Woodstock, previously told the Tatler she was worried about how long it would take to get the social housing plans off the ground (“Activists push City for housing action,” Southern Suburbs Tatler July 26, 2018).

“We have this space available so why can’t we start building? Why then give us another time frame of three years and people are in need of housing, so what is stalling them? First it was the budget, then identifying sites, now we have sites,” she said at the time.

Richard Bosman, the City’s executive director for safety and security, said a notice of intention to declare the structure a problem building had been served.