City’s law enforcement officers confiscating tents and other belongings of homeless people occupying a parking lot in Sydney Street, District 6. Picture: Supplied
City’s law enforcement officers confiscating tents and other belongings of homeless people occupying a parking lot in Sydney Street, District 6. Picture: Supplied

City of Cape Town plans to appeal high court ruling on District Six vagrants

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Oct 11, 2021

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Cape Town - The City says it would appeal what it said was an untenable Western Cape High Court judgment to return all tents, materials and property belonging to 46 homeless people living on a public parking lot in in Sydney Street, District Six, or pay damages of R1 700 each as compensation.

The court also interdicted the City from evicting the occupiers or confiscating their tents, informal structures or personal possessions without a court order.

The City said the judgment would cause District Six to be lost to unlawful occupation and deny the land claim beneficiaries the restitution of their land in perpetuity. It said it was committed to doing everything possible to protect District Six restitution land from being overrun by tented structures and attempts at unlawful occupation.

“An urgent interdict against unlawful occupation attempts in District Six was previously obtained by the City. There can be no reasonable expectation, nor a clear right, for anyone to live unlawfully and permanently in tents in public spaces, and to reserve it for their exclusive use,” the City said.

The City said sustainable alternatives were available, and reports showed that space was available in night shelters on a daily basis.

Ndifuna Ukwazi said the City did not provide alternative accommodation to the occupiers and left them out in the cold. Attorney Daniellé Louw said their clients were elated with the outcome of their case.

“This judgment confirms that the PIE Act applies to street-based occupiers, that their tents and habitable structures are their homes, and that the City must obtain a court order when it seeks to evict them. We trust that this judgment has dissuaded the City from continuing its rampage to illegally dispossess and displace other street-based occupiers,” said Louw.

Good Party mayoral candidate Brett Herron said the focus must be on meaningful interventions which were continuous and progressive to achieve sustainable outcomes for individuals or family units living on the streets.

“The focus must shift to the outcomes we want – which is for people and families living on the streets to find their path to living off the streets in a community. Not as outsiders – demonised or criminalised – but integrated and fulfilled.

“This will not be achieved by breaking down their structures and removing their possessions. Terrorising homeless people will not solve the reasons they are on the streets. The starting point must be permanent facilities, with the right support and social services, operated by organisations trusted by homeless people,” he said.

Herron said the City’s leadership must be asked to account for their defiance of the law as they have had a number of judgments against them that have found them to have acted unlawfully.

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