Bromwell Street residents voice anger over judge's 'kitchen assistant' comment

2017-01-31 17:04
Bromwell Street residents protest evictions. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Bromwell Street residents protest evictions. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Tensions ran high in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday when evicted Bromwell Street residents shouted at the judge while court was still in session after he questioned their spokesperson's knowledge on the matter.

The 27 residents are challenging the City of Cape Town's plan to relocate them after they were evicted from houses in Woodstock's Bromwell Street, which were sold for development.

The residents and their supporters regard the removals as a new form of apartheid-style forced removals, in favour of developers cashing in on demand for rental units close to the inner city.

They have also accused developers of being part of the trend to "gentrify" old working class areas to the point where few original residents can afford to live there.

The group is resisting being moved out of an area, where many have spent their whole lives, to start all over in temporary emergency housing far from job opportunities, clinics, transport and schools for their children.

They also claim the City of Cape Town is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide emergency accommodation suitable to the specific needs of the original residents.

They are asking the court to stay the eviction until suitable emergency housing can be found after they rejected the City of Cape Town's proposal to move them to Wolwerivier.

READ: Evicted Cape Town residents challenge city's emergency housing offer

'Kitchen assistant'

Their lawyer, Advocate Sheldon Magardie, also told the court that the city had not properly considered the alternatives which the evictees had suggested.

But this was met by the ire of Judge Leslie Weinkove who demanded to know who had compiled the list of 45 state-owned erfs, which included a park, for temporary emergency housing.

Flicking through the court papers, he muttered loudly: "What's her name? Charnell Commando. She is a kitchen assistant in Observatory and now she's an expert.

"She doesn't know what the budget of the city council is; she doesn't know what money they get.

"She doesn't know this stuff, she is a kitchen assistant."

Weinkove was referring to Commando, who is the evictee's spokesperson.

Gasps from the gallery

He said a park she had identified was "ridiculous", and another erf of 94m2 was only big enough for a bachelor flat, as people in the benches exclaimed at his outburst.

He wanted to know what would happen to people who had been waiting for more than 10 years to move to Woodstock, and asked about the developers who could not do any work until the matter was resolved.

A balance was needed and locality could not be the issue if people were streaming into Cape Town on the freeway in their cars from as far away as Somerset West, he said.

The residents and supporters gasped, shouting at Weinkove while court was still in session.

He also wanted to know why he should be dealing with a municipal matter, and without a full bench.

"I must take over the job of the city council? What do you want me to go and investigate? Examine every one of these parcels of land?

"I'm not qualified to do that."

The Woodstock Hub intends building new rental units at prices of around R9 000 a month, which the original residents can't afford.

They agreed to move when they were served with eviction notices, and some have done so, but 16 adults and 11 children say have nowhere else to go because of high rentals in the area.

One of the residents, 76-year-old Brenda Smith, told News24 they paid R1 800 a month for their house in Bromwell Street, but they do not even have the average R15 000 deposit they needed to be able to rent somewhere else.

The matter continues.

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing

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