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Occupiers of Cissie Gool House face City of Cape Town in court

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS represents around 900 people currently facing eviction from Cissie Gool House in Cape Town

[UPDATE: The matter has been postponed to 22 April 2021 by agreement with the City after Judge de Villiers refused to hear it on the unopposed roll when it was clearly opposed. Find out more here.]

On Friday 26 February, the Western Cape High Court is set to hear an evictions case affecting around 900 people from Woodstock in Cape Town. The residents of Cissie Gool House, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, include elderly women who were forcibly removed from District Six during apartheid, and many others who would be left homeless during a pandemic if removed from the building.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) represents a large group of residents who face removal from Cissie Gool House (the former Woodstock Hospital). The City of Cape Town has approached the Western Cape High Court with the ultimate aim of removing the occupiers from the building, but with no plan in place to ensure they are not left homeless. Many of the 900 people currently living on the property are women and children with little income.

We understand that the City of Cape Town intends to evict our clients in order to develop the property into social housing units. Yet, our law around evictions is clear: no-one may be evicted from their home if they will be left homeless. It would not be in the interests of justice to remove the occupants of the building. It seems particularly unjust to do so when the land is intended to be used by exactly the kinds of people already occupying the property.

If the eviction were to go ahead, this would constitute the largest mass displacement since the forced removals of the apartheid era. It is unclear why the City of Cape Town would seek to proceed with an eviction of this magnitude even during the current pandemic. We advocate for a moratorium on evictions until after the current pandemic and state of disaster, and argue that the residents of Cissie Gool House should be allowed to occupy the land already intended for their use. 

“We know the City intends to build social housing units on the property for low income households, but there needs to be a plan in place for the people already living in the building,” says Vuyolethu Mntonintshi from CALS. “We cannot displace one set of working class people for another.”

“Many of our clients have lived through these kinds of traumatic evictions before,” says Basetsana Koitsioe from CALS. “One client and her family were among the 60,000 people removed forcibly from District Six during apartheid. This spatial inequality in cities like Cape Town has a long history.”

The matter is set to be heard by the Western Cape High Court on Friday, 26 February.

Read our papers here

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