Small victory for Obs occupiers

The tents set up outside the old Arcadia Place in Observatory.

A group of Observatory occupiers have accused the City of Cape Town of acting inhumanely and of being in contravention of the lockdown regulations after they tried to evict them.

The group known as Singabalapha (We Belong Here) was granted an urgent interim court order last Wednesday, which prevents the City from harassing the residents and removing their property.

This comes after law enforcement issued several fines to the group last week Tuesday and threatened evictions the following day.

The group is now preparing for their next court date on Wednesday June 3.

The group occupied the old age home, Arcadia Place, in Observatory, in September 2019.

They have been living tents outside the building since October, after it was demolished.

Singabalapha secretary, Sinazo Jordan, said they were happy the court ruled against the City and hailed it as a victory.

“We were very worried when we were told that our structures would be destroyed. What would happen with our children if they demolished our homes? We have been staying here since October and this is our home,” she said.

Ms Jordan said the City was also in contravention of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (known as the PIE Act) as they did not have an order of the court. “This is a contravention of the current Covid-19 regulations as well as the PIE Act. Both make it clear that no one can be evicted without a court order after considering all the relevant circumstances and without providing alternative accommodation to those who are being evicted.

“The City needs to learn and understand that it can’t just harass the poor. If they wanted us out they should have done that in October last year already,” she said.

The City’s safety and security executive director, Richard Bosman, said they would abide by the contents of the interim order. “The City cannot comment on this matter as the sub judice rule applies,” he said.

Singabalapha chairwoman, Barbara Vuza, said the City had vast pieces of land which it could use for affordable housing for the people of the city. “There are many vacant buildings and unused land. Instead of providing housing for the people, the City sells off the property and land to investors. Why could the City give land for the foreign nationals to set up temporary camp during the lockdown but not give us the land,” she said.

Ms Vuza said they also had to reduce the number of people staying at the site during the lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but said the City had not been there to check if they had water or masks. She said the City had only been there with a bus to take occupants to the Strandfontein temporary shelter. “We refused to go and said we would quarantine ourselves on the site and look what a disaster the Strandfontein shelter turned out to be,” she said.

Ms Jordan also called on the City to stop referring to them as homeless, as they had a home. “In Singabalapha informal settlement, there are 21 tents and shacks, with over 60 occupants, including children, women, chronically sick and elderly people. We are poor and vulnerable people who do not have anywhere else to go. But the City does not seem to care about us. All they care about is removing us from the wealthy suburbs,” she said.

Ms Jordan thanked the Observatory community for their continuous support and Observatory CAN (Community Action Network) who supported them.