Cape Town - Squatters living in squalor in two hijacked buildings in Commercial Street in the CBD have failed to secure an application in the Western Cape High Court to stop them being evicted.
Hundreds of illegal foreigners were evicted and taken to the immigration office in Epping on Wednesday morning.
A joint operation between the SAPS, City Law Enforcement, and the Department of Home Affairs entered the building – in close proximity to Parliament – and removed the people and their belongings.
When the Independent Media team arrived on scene, the people’s belongings were on the pavement outside 42 and 44 Commercial Street, which were reportedly occupied by more than 500 people.
A bus and a truck were packed with undocumented foreigners.
A foreign man fought with the police when asked for his documentation, telling the officers it was in his motorcycle. He was then taken into custody. Another man who was hiding in the ceiling was also handcuffed and taken away.
More than 50 motorbikes with Uber Eats, Mr Delivery, Checkers Sixty60 and Pick n Pay asap branding were confiscated. Inside the two buildings were shacks and it was evident that a fire had occurred there.
The toilet facilities were broken, with effluent flowing into the street.
The eviction was carried out after an order was served on squatters on August 31 last year, just days after the building caught fire due to an electrical fault.
The document, addressed to 266 respondents, reads: “The first to 265th respondents (hereinafter “respondents”) are ordered to vacate property situated at 44 to 48 Commercial Street, Cape Town, Western Cape, also known as erf 177651, Cape Town, Western Cape (‘the property’), by no later than December 31, 2023.
“In the event the respondents fail and/or refuse to vacate the property, the sheriff of the above honourable court, duly assisted by the SAPS insofar as same may be necessary, is authorised and directed to evict them from the property, together with their belongings, with said eviction not to take place before Thursday, January 4, 2024.”
The squatters said that at around 8am yesterday, they were woken up by the police and law enforcement officers kicking doors down.
One of the evictees, Benjamin Bemba, said: “They had to give us alternative places if they were evicting people. Where must we go now? What about our stuff?
“I believe that the issue was with the woman who the owner of the building had a lease agreement with. She treated us badly, bringing bouncers and gangsters, and we threw her out after we got a protection order.
“On May 1, we found a lawyer. In August we were told that by December, we should leave and we refused because there were a lot of us and there were children. And we know the lawyer gives this process 18 to 24 months, even though that is not enough for people to find alternative accommodation.”
Lawyer Junaid Jumat said they were brought into the case yesterday.
“We drafted papers yesterday to bring an application to the high court, which at the time of the eviction had not proceeded because the people were out of the property. We were instructed too late.”
Police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie said that their records showed more than 100 undocumented persons were transported to Epping immigration office for verification, while all other persons who illegally occupied the building were told to vacate the premises with immediate effect.
“In addition, members arrested a 30-year-old man for dealing in drugs as well as a 40-year-old man for resisting arrest and for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Both will appear in the local Magistrate’s Court, once charged. These suspects are currently being processed.”