Bromwell Street tenants fear relocation to outskirts of Cape Town

Barbara Maregele, GroundUp

Cape Town - Families facing eviction from their Woodstock homes say they will be left unemployed and their children without schools, should they be relocated to Wolwerivier.

“We went to Wolwerivier last year and there is no life there. Most of us work night shift at places in the area, so if we have to move far away, we’ll lose our jobs,” said tenant Charnell Commando.

In 2013, a company called The Woodstock Hub bought the Bromwell Street properties, where the group live. Tenants lost an appeal against the recent eviction order, and previously had until September 9 to move out. The families filed an urgent application in the High Court to halt the eviction.

While that application was unsuccessful, the court ruled on the city’s obligation to provide the tenants with emergency alternative accommodation.

In the city’s answering affidavit, acting executive director of human settlements, Riana Pretorius, expressed concern that the Bromwell Street residents should not set a precedent for jumping the housing queue.

Now the residents are rejecting the city’s proposal to relocate them to Wolwerivier, near Melkbosstrand, about 25km north of the city centre, with distant access to services like schools and clinics.

It is considered a temporary relocation area as opposed to subsidised housing. Commando is among a group of 10 households that do not qualify for subsidised housing. This is why the city proposed Wolwerivier for them. Only three Bromwell Street residents qualify for subsidised housing.

“The mayor last week spoke about reversing the apartheid spatial planning in Cape Town. If she meant it, why not start building affordable housing now?” Commando said.

Commando said it was shocking that the oldest Bromwell tenant, Brenda Smith, did not meet the housing subsidy criteria.

“She’s lived here for 75 years and now will be homeless. We don’t even mind if the city just gives her a house in Pelican Park.”

Another resident, Graham Beukes, works a few metres from his home. Both his young children are not at school because it is unclear if they will have to relocate soon.

“There are about 10 school-going children here. They are all worried they will have to move. We don’t even know if there will be place for them [at schools] that side.”

Represented by the Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre, Bromwell residents will argue against the proposed relocation to Wolwerivier. They will ask the city to provide them with containers to live on vacant land in Bromwell Street.

Mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said city would comment once it had argued it case in court.

The matter would be heard in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

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