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Small victory for homeless

Cape Flats families given a reprieve from eviction, writes Glynnis Underhill

Ashraf Cassiem and 139 families who have set up home under the stars along Symphony Way in wind-swept Delft on the Cape Flats cele-brated a small victory last week after being given a reprieve in their fight against eviction.

“We’ll gladly move to houses that are safe, clean and adequate to our families’ needs,” said Cassiem, chairperson of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign.

On Tuesday residents were granted a postponement of the eviction application by the City of Cape Town, acting for the Western Cape government.

Cassiem, who represented them, was delighted when acting Judge Jake Moloi ordered the families to file answering papers by June 30, and that the matter be heard on September 3.

“I’m happy that the court is finally listening to poor people who can’t afford legal representation,” said Cassiem.

The Symphony Way families illegally occupied newly completed homes intended for beneficiaries of the government’s N2 Gateway project in Delft.

When police evicted them in February last year, they erected makeshift shelters in Symphony Way, resisting removal to Blikkiesdorp, a crime-ridden “temporary relocation area”.

Cassiem said the battles of the Symphony Way community bore a striking similarity to moves to evict 20 000 shack-dwellers of the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa in Cape Town.

These residents are being evicted to make way for housing for the controversial N2 Gateway project and are uncertain whether they will be offered housing in the “flagship” development.

Five judges of the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled on Wednesday that they would allow the eviction of Joe Slovo residents but that they had to be given alternative housing.

Joe Slovo representative Mzwanele Zulu said he had mixed feelings about the judgment.

“I’m happy, but I feel an element of disappointment. There’ll have to be negotiations with our lawyers before there are relocations.”

Welcoming the Joe Slovo judgment as “groundbreaking”, the director general of human settlements, Itumeleng Kotsoane, said it made the fast-tracking of integrated human settlements and organised progress towards “the achievement of a South Africa free of slums and informal settlements” possible.

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Glynnis Underhill
Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country.

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