Judge questions City’s plan to send Woodstock families to Wolwerivier

“If you get sent to Wolwerivier, what is the chance that you will be able to get out of Wolwerivier, or are you essentially going on a permanent basis?” asked acting Judge Mark Sher in the eviction case of 27 residents of Bromwell Street, Woodstock.

The families returned to the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday. They are facing eviction to Wolwerivier, after the Woodstock Hub bought the property on which they live, GroundUp reports.

The City of Cape Town is arguing that the only available emergency accommodation for the residents is in Wolwerivier.

The residents are calling for the City to provide them with emergency accommodation as close as possible to the area where they currently live.

The case was originally heard by acting Judge Leslie Weinkove, but is being reheard as Weinkove recused himself from the case. His recusal came after Weinkove made “offensive comments” during the case, and residents felt that he might be biased against them.

On Tuesday Weinkove’s replacement, Sher, expressed concern that if the Bromwell Street residents moved to Wolwerivier as an emergency solution, they would never return to Woodstock.

Sher questioned whether there were schools, shops, jobs, places of worship or health facilities at Wolwerivier.

Advocate Sheldon Magardie, representing the residents on behalf of Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre, said that to access any of these amenities, they would need to travel out of Wolwerivier.

‘Little chance of getting back’

Sher calculated that if Bromwell Street residents needed to get to Woodstock from Wolwerivier, this would cost about R30 for a one way trip.

He said that he understood that the environmental authorisation for Wolwerivier had been granted on the basis that only people living in the West Coast area would be relocated there.

He also said he understood that Wolwerivier had originally been intended for emergency accommodation, but residents who lived there seemed to be living there permanently.

“[There is a] real concern that people sent to Wolwerivier may have very little chance of getting back to where they come from,” said Sher.

In his arguments, Magardie said that the there was a housing affordability crisis and that one of the areas hardest hit was the Woodstock and Salt River area.

“One clear result of the crisis is that people who are poor and working class, such as the Bromwell Street residents, are being evicted and displaced from neighbourhoods where they have lived most of their lives,” said Magardie.

He said the City had a duty to address displacement and to do so in a reasonable manner.

There had been “no new affordable housing built in Woodstock or Salt River since the dawn of democracy”, he said.

Magardie also repeatedly referred to an affidavit by Lauren Royston from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, who said average property inflation was 10.6% a year in Cape Town, significantly higher than the national average of 6%.

“To afford the average house in Cape Town, a Capetonian would have to earn more than three times the average household income,” said Magardie.

‘Dumping them out’

Magardie made repeated mention of a transitional housing development planned by the City for those facing homelessness in the Woodstock and Salt River areas.

But it appeared that this development would be filled with residents from Pine Road who are being moved to make way for a social housing development.

Magardie emphasised that in this case, the City was doing exactly what it had said it could not do for the Bromwell Street residents.

Sher said that it seemed that the City had recently realised the need for transitional housing. “Maybe they realised they can’t keep taking people and dumping them out of the city,” said Sher.

Sher also took issue with the residents’ request for accommodation “as close as possible to where they reside”, questioning whether this would simply result in the City saying that Wolwerivier is the closest accommodation on offer.

He said while the City seemed to be developing a number of “exciting programmes”, there seemed to be no space in them for existing applicants.

He said the City might need to provide more information on Wolwerivier and how many residents ever left it.

However, Advocate Karrisha Pillay, for the City, was opposed to Sher’s suggestion that they provide more information to the court without having heard their arguments.

It was decided that Pillay would first present her arguments and then Sher would decide whether more information was needed.

The case continues on Wednesday. —GroundUp

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Ashleigh Furlong
Ashleigh Furlong works from London, England. Reporter @ResFortnight. Previously @GroundUp_News. Ashleigh Furlong has over 1044 followers on Twitter.

Related stories


Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories

R2.3bn VBS trial expected to only begin in 2022

The state is expected to request a 16 week-long trial, as delays stymie progress in the saga.

Spy boss tells how agency was used to detain Zuma’s...

Day two of State Security Agency testimony at the Zondo commission birthed more revelations that point to the former head of state and agents breaking the law

Covax will take excess doses of Covid vaccines off the...

The global initiative plans to deliver two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to developing nations

Eastern Cape citizens don’t have to visit the labour department...

This measure, aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, may shortly be introduced in other regions.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…