Evictions: NU responds to Cape Town issuing eviction notices

Attempt to shovel people into shelters is just putting a tiny plaster on a gaping wound that is city's housing crisis, says NPO

NU response to City of Cape Town issuing eviction notices to people experiencing homelessness

20 February 2023

We are relieved that the City of Cape Town has finally accepted its constitutional duty not to illegally evict unlawful occupiers of public land. It took several high court cases for it to realise that there is indignity in shamelessly depriving people of their homes without following the law and obtaining a court order authorised in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.

The considerable effort which civil society has had to put into compelling the City of Cape Town to follow the law is outrageous and at the expense of the most economically vulnerable people. The City of Cape Town has gone as far as publicly disparaging the legal process by describing the eviction process “‘tedious’, ‘laborious’ and ‘costly’ and in doing so make a tacit acknowledgement that their previous efforts to evict people illegally, was done so knowingly and willingly. (https://bit.ly/3YI77iF)

“The prevailing attitude by the City towards homelessness has been to address complaints from residents in brick houses rather than addressing those in need themselves. The comments from the Mayor on a voice note which is circulating on Whatsapp, describes the refusal of people to enter shelters as a problem with individuals rather than the shelter system itself. The City cannot blame its citizens for the failure of its own system. It is the duty of the state to care for all who live in it – and not one it can throw its hands in the air and absolve itself from.”

says Daniellé Louw attorney for Ndifuna Ukwazi

NU notes the City’s claims that they have made offers of social assistance to people occupying public spaces. In our experience, in many instances it often takes many and sustained offers of social assistance, and that a key ingredient in people taking up such assistance is that a relationship of trust has been established. Over the years, we have made several recommendations to improve the shelter system.

Homelessness should not be viewed as a problem with individuals, but as a problem of poverty. The attempt to shovel people into shelters is just putting a tiny plaster on a gaping wound that is the housing crisis in Cape Town.

The demand for shelter at the moment far outstrips the supply. Whilst we welcome the City and Province investing in further safe spaces, it is unclear where people are expected to stay. It is also very likely that without a developmental plan in place, the street based people will return back to the street in due course.

The current safe spaces system only offers relief up to between three to six months thereafter, the person must vacate the shelter and find another alternative. Without a systemic overhaul of the standard operating procedures, we are failing to address the issues properly.

Night shelters are not a solution to homelessness. They do not allow loved ones to live together, nor can one find rest there during the day time, nor privacy at night. During the day, people will still be forced to occupy space on the street.

We anticipate that security forces will be fiercely guarding streets, particularly in the build up to the City of Cape Town endorsed Cape Town ePrix this coming weekend.

As previously stated in our release on Tafelberg: 16 February 2023:

Properties along the Atlantic Seaboard can enter the market in the realm of R100 million – without proactive action from the state, the cost of well-located homes will push more and more South Africans out of affording to live anywhere in Cape Town. Black (African, Coloured and Indian) people remain economically excluded from the areas that they were legally barred from under apartheid.”

“We urgently need affordable housing to avoid overcrowding in homes and an increase in informal settlements and homelessness. Approximately 75% of Cape Town’s households earn less than R22 000 per month and only 34%, or just over a third of houses cater for this segment of the population.”

says Robyn Park-Ross, researcher for Ndifuna Ukwazi

As previously stated in the Daily Maverick on 11 September 2022

“…there are close to 3,500 beds available for street-based people in Cape Town, but the conservative estimate is that there are close to 15,000 people living on the street. Irrespective of the limited number of beds, the reality is that what is on offer are temporary shelter spaces that cater for those who find themselves temporarily experiencing homelessness. These shelter options do not address long-term homelessness.”

The application for an eviction cannot be carried through until the court has granted the order and a crucial part of that is that the court determines where people will go. We foresee this process to catalyse the cyclic nature of sending people from the street to shelters and back again, pushed from neighbourhood to neighbourhood until they are out of sight or imprisoned.

Issued by NU, 20 February 2023