Kicked to the curb with nowhere to go

Lwandile Krani and his wife Dirmia look on as the remains of their house are removed. The couple believe they were unfairly evicted by the City of Cape Town.

An eight-month pregnant Brooklyn woman, her husband and their three children face an uncertain future after the City of Cape Town evicted them and demolished the building they’ve called home for almost 20 years.

Dirmia Lukas and her husband, Lwandile Krani, have accused the City of unfair treatment.

The couple woke up on Tuesday August 20 to find a bulldozer and City of Cape Town staff outside their home – an outbuilding at Table Bay Sports Complex in Wemyss Street, Brooklyn.

They were served with an eviction notice and their belongings were moved to the entrance of the sports complex before the bulldozer flattened their home.

The couple’s three children – a girl of 13 and two boys aged 10 and 9 – were at school at the time.

According to Mayco member for community services and health Dr Zahid Badroodien, Mr Krani was an “unlawful occupier”, but Mr Krani says he was the sports complex’s caretaker.

He said he had worked for a construction company, Saal and Sons, in 2000 when it had had a contract with the City and had done work at the complex.

According to Mr Krani, he stayed on-site during the work and was put in a room in a small building attached to the complex. The room had a toilet and taps.

“After a year, the contract ended with the City, but my boss made arrangements for me to continue living here,” Mr Krani claimed.

He said the company no longer existed and he did not have any contact details for his ex-boss who he said lived in Atlantis.

Tabletalk could not find Saal and Sons online or verify Mr Krani’s account with any similarly named firms listed on the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission by the time of going to print. The City’s recreation and parks department said it had no knowledge of the contract alluded to by Mr Krani.

Mr Krani has the keys to the complex’s gate, and, according to Ms Lukas, who moved in with him in 2004, he did not get paid to be the caretaker as he was living on the property for free.

Ms Lukas, who is eight months pregnant, believes the City lost track of them living there when City management at the complex “kept changing” since 2010.

“They lost track of who we were and how we came to be here. In 2017 the City came to take the keys of the property but returned it again. In 2018 we were served with the first eviction notice and were given a month to vacate the premises,” said Ms Lukas.

She said they had been working with the City since then to find a solution. In April last year they received a final court order to vacate by mid-January this year.

“We had no problem moving. We just wanted alternative accommodation,” said Ms Lukas.

She said the City had pointed them to the informal settlements and backyarders department for housing, but several visits to the offices had proved fruitless.

Dr Badroodien said the City had followed due process leading up to the eviction.

“The City’s human settlements department offered them a unit at Wolwerivier, but they declined the offer. The City was not ordered to provide alternative accommodation. Due processes were followed in the execution of the court order. Mr Krani had no permission to be at the sports complex, hence the City undertook an eviction process. The court took all his relevant and personal circumstances into account and granted the court order.”

Ms Lukas said their livelihood and their children’s schools were in Brooklyn and they were not prepared to uproot their lives and move to Wolwerivier or Blikkiesdorp which were dangerous areas.

A woman who volunteers for a feeding scheme run from the complex, and who did not want to be named, said she has had no problems with the family in all the time she’s known them.

“How can they throw a pregnant woman out with three children? It’s exam time at school. How are those children going to concentrate?”