One of the angry resident Charmaine Bevers from Lourensia Park. Lourensia Park residents in Somerset West are angry at the City of Cape Town, after they received summons in criminal proceedings for their backyard structures. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
One of the angry resident Charmaine Bevers from Lourensia Park. Lourensia Park residents in Somerset West are angry at the City of Cape Town, after they received summons in criminal proceedings for their backyard structures. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape residents hauled before court for illegal dwellings on property

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Sep 21, 2021

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Cape Town - Lourensia Park residents in Somerset West are angry and disappointed after they received summonses for illegally building additional dwellings on their properties.

Residents received letters from the clerk of the criminal court at the Somerset Magistrate's Court on August 19, stating that they were guilty of contravening sections of the national building regulations and building standards act.

Those who built structures, had no approved plans to do so.

Some residents, including 57-year-old Charmaine Bevers, are due to appear in court tomorrow. Bevers said she was disappointed after she received the letter.

She said she built her wendy house because there are too many people living with her in her RDP house.

Another resident who stays in a wendy house outside his brother's RDP house, Eben Maart, said he has been on the City's housing list for many years.

"If the City comes and breaks down my house, I will be left with nowhere to go," said Maart.

Community activist, Niklaas Thysen, said the City must find an amicable solution and not take them to court.

Good secretary-general Brett Herron, who raised the alarm after the community approached him, said the City’s approach to additional dwellings, in those cases, was quite astounding.

Herron said there was a housing crisis in the city with 400 000 people on a housing waiting list, with many living in backyard dwellings in every community across the Cape Flats.

One of the angry resident Charmaine Bevers from Lourensia Park. Lourensia Park residents in Somerset West are angry at the City of Cape Town, after they received summons in criminal proceedings for their backyard structures. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
One of the angry resident Charmaine Bevers from Lourensia Park. Lourensia Park residents in Somerset West are angry at the City of Cape Town, after they received summons in criminal proceedings for their backyard structures. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

The City has been unable to provide them with housing and relied on that relatively informal arrangement to keep about half a million people housed, he said.

"If these structures are regarded as illegal buildings and the City is now going to prosecute this arrangement as a criminal offence, then this will displace about 500 000 people," said Herron.

The City adopted a policy authorising second dwellings on every erf, he said. There were discussions of increasing that to third dwellings to address housing shortages and increase densities in a low density and inefficient urban form.

The prosecution of people for making a plan, where the City has failed, was a continuation of the criminalisation of poverty by the City government, he said.

"There are far better ways to approach this – especially since the City needs this housing – and that is to assist families with regularising any breach of building regulations," he said.

Spatial Planning and Environment Mayco member Marian Nieuwoudt said Lourensia Park is a formal housing development zoned for single residential zone 1 purposes.

For any habitable or other structure within that area, a building plan must be submitted in terms of the national building regulations and building standards act for consideration and approval prior to construction, she said.

"In the case of Lourensia Park, we have received a number of complaints over the past few months relating to unlawful building work. These complaints were all investigated and where building work took place without an approved building plan, a case was opened and notices served," said Nieuwoudt.

The notice was for the owner to submit a building plan in order to regularise any unlawful building activities. If that does not happen, the owner receives a summons to appear in court, she said.

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