Occupiers of Cissie Gool House reach settlement with City of Cape Town
- Lee-Anne Bruce
CALS represents some of the 900 people facing eviction by the City of Cape Town and are working to ensure their rights are protected during this process
On Thursday 22 April, the represented occupiers of Cissie Gool House reached a settlement agreement with the City of Cape Town. The City first approached the Western Cape High Court in February, seeking to undertake a survey of the residents as a first step towards evicting around 900 people from the building. The agreement allows the residents’ legal team at CALS to conduct the survey and provide the Court with our clients’ personal information and draw attention to their housing needs.
In February this year, the City of Cape Town applied to the Western Cape High Court in order to undertake a survey of the occupiers of Cissie Gool House (the former Woodstock Hospital) with the intention of eventually removing them from the building. On 26 February, the Court ordered the matter to be postponed until 22 April to allow the residents to oppose the application. Many of these 900 residents are represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and strongly oppose having representatives from the City access their homes.
Yesterday, the occupiers represented by CALS reached an agreement with the City, which was later made an order of court. The order allows a team from CALS to survey our clients and prepare a confidential list with their personal details for the Court within the next three months. It then directs the City to file a report within six months of that, to show that the City has engaged with our clients on: whether they are prepared to leave the building, whether they will require alternative accommodation if evicted from the building, and whether they qualify for emergency housing or the social housing planned for the property.
The City has been permitted to survey the remaining occupiers of the building who have no legal representation. They are, however, required to inform CALS 48 hours in advance when they intend to conduct the survey. This will then give our clients sufficient notice to ensure they will not be surveyed in error or be subject to any invasive questioning or feel intimidated.
“Many of our clients have been through the trauma of evictions before,” says Basetsana Koitsioe from CALS. “Some were removed from their homes in District Six at the height of apartheid, then again when Woodstock was undergoing ‘gentrification’. Of course they resist leaving a building that they have turned into a home and a community. This order is a step towards ensuring that they are heard and respected and that the process is carried out with dignity.”
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