Occupiers of a Communicare building in Brooklyn are appealing the Western Cape High Court’s ruling that they should move with immediate effect.
In early March, 25 people, including women and children, invaded 17 of the vacant units at the Goedehoop Rental Complex in Brooklyn. These rental units belong to Communicare. A week later, as many as 24 units were occupied and there were more than 50 occupants. According to Anthea Houston, Communicare CEO, these occupants had invaded the complex illegally (“Cops let ’building hijacking’ happen, says Communicare,” Tabletalk, March 17).
A Communicare spokeswoman, Makhosi Kubheka, said the court had ruled on Monday May 24 that the property should return to Communicare and that the occupants should leave immediately.
“Communicare brought an urgent application on 30 March 2021 after SAPS insisted that Communicare should apply to the courts for an eviction order when a mob of about 40 people violently overruled the security guards at its Goedehoop residential complex in Brooklyn. The court ordered that the hijackers of the apartments immediately vacate the premises that they have been illegally living in since the first apartments were broken into on 2 March 2021,” she said.
Ms Kubheka said that “the hijackers” had contested Communicare’s urgent application, claiming that they were legal tenants. They had provided receipts for electricity they had bought while living on the premises.
“The judge found the claim of legal occupation ’so far-fetched or clearly untenable’ that it rejected the claims,” she said.
According to a copy of a court document obtained by Tabletalk, 23 families living in the units have appealed the court’s decision.
Bonakele Dlova, the attorney representing the occupiers, said they were appealing on the grounds that the judge had failed to explain why the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE Act) did not apply. Mr Dlova claimed the occupiers’ constitutional rights were being denied.
“Communicare made a spoliation application in an attempt to circumvent the PIE Act application, which is unconstitutional. The appeal is saying that the occupants ought to be afforded protection in terms of the PIE Act and not be thrown out without following the prescripts of PIE and the case law regarding the application of PIE,” he said.
Mr Dlova added that the matter was still in court and the appeal would be heard today (Wednesday June 2).
Ms Houston said the real victims were the legal tenants of the complex.
“Elderly tenants have been harassed, threatened and their apartments were broken into to make illegal water and electricity connections. The final hurdle is to urge the hijackers to leave peacefully. I trust that the law will be respected and that tenants can return to living in peace,” she said.
Claire Ferreira, of Brooklyn, said she knew people who had been on Communicare’s waiting lists for more than three years and had given up on getting a spot in one of the complexes.
“I and many people I know don’t condone the actions of these people, but people have had enough. There is a dire need for accommodation in South Africa, and people will do anything to have a roof over their heads. This is proof that people are willing to be prosecuted because they need housing,” she said.
Ms Kubheka said the court had ordered “the hijackers” to leave independently or be ejected by the sheriff of the court.
“The court returned control of the access gates, security points and common areas back to Communicare. The court also noted that hijackers were interdicted and restrained from returning to the property,” she said.