Occupants asked to go

2018-03-20 06:01

The Department of Transport and Public Works has begun the process of ending the occupation of buildings on the Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home site.

Last week, the department began notifying each of the occupants of the Helen Bowden Nurses’ Home site – part of the Somerset precinct and close to the V&A Waterfront – that the department wishes to bring to an end the “unlawful occupation of the site”, says public works minister, Donald Grant.

“It is currently being unlawfully occupied by supporters of the group Reclaim the City. The unlawful occupation was encouraged by Ndifuna Ukwazi and began almost a year ago. It has consistently been opposed by the Western Cape Government,” explains Grant.

“Since the unlawful occupation, violent outbreaks have erupted on the site from time to time, which have also resulted in vandalism and the destruction of property.”

The department has “been forced” to contract additional security for the site at a cost of close to R3m a month, Grant says, and has spent over R35m on securing the property against invasions, vandalism and theft in this financial year.

“In our letters, the department makes it clear that the continued unlawful occupation of the site is likely to hinder the planned development on the Helen Bowden site that will see the erection of 302 social housing units (as part of a larger development), once the City gives us its go-ahead,” he says.

“This, along with other similar initiatives also underway, is aimed at using this site in an effective way so as to maximise the economic benefit of this asset and at the same time address the need for social housing.”

Reclaim the City spokesperson Elizabeth Gqoboka says occupants have received letters from the department, but these are under review by the organisation’s lawyers. She says the organisation, and the residents, will not be commenting until they have received feedback from the lawyers.

The timely vacation of the property by the current occupants is essential to the successful redevelopment, Grant insists.

“The department has requested that the unlawful occupants provide us with information that will assist us in facilitating their vacation of the property in a negotiated, transparent and orderly manner.

“It is my sincere hope that all the unlawful occupants will work with us to ensure that the vacation of the property occurs timeously­.

“Reclaim the City has long purported to be advocates for social housing; we hope that they will therefore do all they can to assist us in ensuring that we are able to proceed with the redevelopment of the Helen Bowden site that will see the erection of 302 social housing units thereon as soon as possible.”

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