THE Catholic Welfare and Development building in Athlone. Google Earth Screengrab.
Cape Town - Attempts by Catholic Welfare and Development to evict a former arts and culture manager from their building in Athlone in order to sell it have hit another snag with the case postponed to May 27 by the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

Andre Marais was among the 49 staff members who were retrenched by Catholic Welfare and Development at the end of last year. The organisation applied for an interdict to prevent Marais from accessing the premises, charging that he had orchestrated an illegal occupation of the building.

“It’s a bit of a difficult situation for me because if I get close to the premises they can arrest me. They turned down all forms of mediation. Instead they have chosen this form of engagement,” he said.

Marais labelled the eviction as an attack against him and as a crucifixion.

“This is a holy week for the Catholic people, and its unpleasant and they are using an apartheid-style way to do this, and this is a very important time for the Christians. Athlone is a depressed area and it’s a tragedy that they want to close a functioning place like this,” he said.

On Monday the Western Cape High Court decided to give Marais six weeks to find proper legal representation.

Last month Athlone residents launched a campaign against the closure of the historic Catholic Welfare and Development building.

The building has been used for community programmes focusing on the arts, social outreach and the environment. Catholic Welfare and Development has been operating in Cape Town since 1970 to deal with the poverty and injustices suffered by under-privileged people.

The Save the Athlone Cultural Hub Campaign, consisting of residents, congregants of the local Catholic community and activists, has initiated an online petition to appeal for the building to remain open and for it to be declared a living heritage site.

Catholic Welfare and Development had reportedly racked up debts of almost R18 million due to mismanagement, and there may have already been a decision to sell the property to make way for student accommodation.

In court papers the organisation said: “To assist Mr Marais CWD (Catholic Welfare and Development) afforded him access to, and use of, the property for certain limited purposes. Mr Marais has abused such access in various ways, which culminated in Mr Marais engineering the occupation of the property by unauthorised persons.” It said that the interdict was a matter of urgency.

“Mr Marais’ unlawful conduct exposes the CWD to the ongoing risk of its property being used by persons to whom Mr Marais may grant access without CWDs’ knowledge and consent, the risks of legal liability and damage to its property and the risk of the property being invaded and ­unlawfully occupied,” the organisation said.

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Cape Argus