High court grants City final eviction order to remove people illegally occupying the CBD

Eviction notices are to be served at unlawful occupation hotspots along Buitengracht Street. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Africa News Agency (ANA)

Eviction notices are to be served at unlawful occupation hotspots along Buitengracht Street. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Africa News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 20, 2024


Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has been granted a final eviction order by the Western Cape High Court, allowing it to remove hundreds of street people illegally occupying public spaces in the city centre from August 1.

The order handed down yesterday pertains to the “tent cities” along Buitengracht Street, FW de Klerk Boulevard, Foregate Square, Taxi Rank and Foreshore, Helen Suzman Boulevard, Strand Street, Foreshore/N1, Virginia Avenue and Mill Street Bridge.

The ruling follows a lengthy court battle with the Social Economic Rights Institute NGO after the initial granting of an order for eviction notices was served in February 2023.

The order was welcomed by Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

The order was welcomed by Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis who claimed that it would enable the restoration of public places.. Photographer: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

“The City welcomes this order, which will enable the restoration of public places for all to use in Cape Town’s CBD. The court has affirmed City Safe Spaces as dignified transitional shelter, and the offer of spaces at these facilities still stands for those who have not yet accepted.

“Accepting social assistance to get off the streets is the best choice for dignity, health and well-being, and the City has gone to great lengths to extend every offer of care to individuals unlawfully occupying public places in various parts of the metro.

“Where offers of help to get off the streets have been persistently refused, we continue to seek the court’s help as a last resort. No person has the right to reserve a public space as exclusively theirs, while indefinitely refusing all offers of shelter and social assistance,“said Hill-Lewis.

He said that after July 30, if necessary, the sheriff of the court may evict any remaining occupants.

In the event of failure or refusal to vacate the sites the City, assisted by the SAPS, will have the right to evict, demolish and remove structures.

In recent months, the high court has granted the City two similar eviction orders for the Three Anchor Bay Tennis Club, and the vicinity of the Nelson Mandela Boulevard intersection, Old Marine Drive, and Christiaan Barnard Bridge.

The City further expects the launching of an eviction application for the area surrounding the Castle of Good Hope by the Department of Public Works. DPW has assigned their own legal counsel to act on this matter.

There are no clear figures of how many homeless people live in Cape Town, or in the CBD.

Chairperson of the Homeless Action Coalition (HAC), Ndodana Hadebe, said they understood that the City was facing challenges regarding homelessness, but evictions should be avoided whenever possible.

“We advocate for a compassionate approach that prioritises the well-being and dignity of those affected while working towards long-term solutions,” Hadebe said.

The order includes a standing interdict against any further unlawful occupation of these areas and further City-owned public spaces.

The City has identified 30 people living on Buitengracht, seven on FW de Klerk Boulevard, three at Foregate Square, 20 on Helen Suzman Boulevard, 44 on Strand Street, four near the Roggebaai gas turbine, and six at the Mill Street bridge.

Venetia Orgill, known for feeding people in the CBD, said there were no programmes in place for the homeless.

“They don’t speak to the proper people, they award millions to the Safe Spaces they put up in and around Cape Town. Where do they go to after three months?” she asked.

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Cape Argus