UPDATE | 'We tried to reach an agreement with the crèche' - company responds to eviction allegations

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A crèche in Gugulethu was evicted from a building in the early hours of Thursday, leaving more than 30 kids with no place to go.
A crèche in Gugulethu was evicted from a building in the early hours of Thursday, leaving more than 30 kids with no place to go.
  • The Uluntu Crèche in Gugulethu was evicted from a building on Thursday.
  • The crèche has just over 80 kids, who rely on the food they get at the centre.
  • The company that bought the building said they to tried reach an agreement with the crèche on numerous occasions. 

The company that bought a building, where the Uluntu Crèche has been operating for many years before being evicted, told News24 that they attempted throughout 2019 to reach an agreement with crèche.

The company, 255 Gugulethu (Pty) Ltd, said in a statement on Thursday that they bought the property in Gugulethu to develop a centre, in concert with residents, with local shops surrounding anchor tenants.

"In January 2020, we were left with no option other than to apply for eviction. The negotiations had gone nowhere, and no utilities were being paid, let alone anything else," the company said.

The company said it had set out in the affidavit before the court that they offered Uluntu Crèche a five-year lease agreement at a rental of R10 per month, with an option for a further five years.

"The creche is to be constructed at 150m², together with 250m² of the grassed area, paid for by ourselves, at a cost of R9 000 per square metre, which is modern, new and safe for the children of the area," the company added.

The company said they repeatedly negotiated during the course of 2020 and 2021 to incorporate the crèche as part of the development, or to attribute R500 000 to enable it to set up nearby.

"Our company has bent over backwards, but without any success from management at the crèche. We then obtained a final court order in October last year for the eviction of the crèche," said 255 Gugulethu (Pty) Ltd.

The owners of the new property indicated that they had to get a court order to install a prepaid electricity and water metre as the crèche was not paying anything.

"We discovered an illegal water connection supplying the crèche, utilising water for which we were paying the City of Cape Town," the company stated.

"This is a property which is zoned commercial, which we wish to develop in order to make facilities available to the broader Gugulethu community. The only reason that the crèche is not part of it is their failure to accept any of our generous offers," said 255 Gugulethu (Pty) Ltd.

The crèche was evicted from a building during the early hours of Thursday, leaving more than 30 kids stranded with no place to go.

The Uluntu Crèche has loyally served the Gugulethu community for 40 years. The crèche has more than 80 kids, many of them relying on the food they get at the centre for their only daily meal.

Crèche principal Nombulelo Mzimkulu told News24 she was "heartbroken and devastated" that the sheriffs and police moved in and evicted them without prior notice.

"Today, (Thursday) at 04:00, the police and sheriff came to evict us from the building. When I got to the centre, all our belongings were placed outside the gate and [the centre was] fenced off with yellow police tape. The sheriff had opened the locks of the doors and forced their way inside to clear out the building," said Mzimkulu.

According to the principal, she had not received any eviction papers or prior notice instructing them to vacate the premises.

She said the building had been sold to new owners, who had advised her that they would be building a shopping mall. According to her, they said they would make provision for the crèche.

"I only received the eviction paper this morning (Thursday) when I arrived at the crèche. I don't understand this sudden change of heart of the new owners. I was not notified by any of the new owners that we must be out of the building as soon as possible. My heart is very sore," said Mzimkulu.

According to emotional residents lining up outside the crèche, the kids have been asking if they will still be getting food and where they will have to play and learn.

Theodora Lutuli, a principal at a nearby school, said she and many other teachers went to the scene as a gesture of solidarity with Mzimkulu.

"What is happening at the crèche is unacceptable. This should not be happening in the week when the school year kicks off. Where are these kids supposed to go? Many of their parents are at work and have no idea what is happening right now. Those parents relied on this centre for the safekeeping of their kids. Now what must happen?" said Lutuli.

Mzimkulu said she had approached a nearby resident to accommodate the kids in the meantime.

She said: 

We have notified the parents of what is currently happening at the premises. Some parents have fetched their kids. Unfortunately, some of the parents cannot leave their workplace right now so we will be looking after the kids until the situation calms down and parents are able to collect their kids.

According to Lutuli, some residents have decided to prepare food for the children and will take it to the temporary site, so that they can have something to eat.

"It's not right that the kids should see what is happening to the building they know and love. To see the police surrounding the area and not letting anyone inside the premises is something children should not be witnessing," she added.

Gugulethu community leader Marc Mathebe told News24 earlier on Thursday that the crèche's lawyers were trying to stop the eviction.

"This eviction should not be happening today. The eviction was scheduled to take place in March. What is happening outside Uluntu is unacceptable. There are about 60 police officers on the scene," Mathebe said.

A crèche in Gugulethu was evicted from a building in the early hours of Thursday, leaving more than 30 kids with no place to go.
More than 30 kids were left stranded after their crèche was evicted by the sheriff of the court and police.
The crèche's property was removed and dumped outside the gates of the premises.
Yellow tape has been placed outside the building as to not let members of the public inside.

Residents said police fired warning shots when residents tried to gain access to the building on Thursday.

Mathebe said:

I am devastated. I cannot believe that the police are shooting off gunshots with little kids in the area. We have been running around trying to grab the children and seeking some sort of shelter to prevent anyone from getting hurt. It's crazy. We had absolutely no idea this is what we would be facing when we woke up this morning.

According to Mathebe, they were waiting on feedback from the lawyers before deciding the way forward.

"Right now, the kids have no place to go to. The parents are at work, we have no building to shelter us. Early this morning, the kids were sitting on the tables and chairs that were put outside by the police as nobody is allowed to go inside. We are asking everyone to remain calm until the lawyers arrive, so that we know what steps to take next," Mathebe said.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi said protesters had barricaded the road using burning tyres and rubble.

"Public Order Police [members] used action to disperse the crowd. Our members will stay in the area to monitor the situation," added Swartbooi.

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