Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has said it has more than 300 cases of “problem buildings” across the metropole.
Law Enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason said in the last three months of last year, 312 complaints about them had been lodged.
Nearly 80% of the buildings cited were privately owned.
“It is important to remember that compliance with all relevant safety legislation is the responsibility of a building owner.
“They are also responsible for seeking eviction orders where unlawful occupations have occurred. Should there be an imminent threat to public safety or some other cause to evacuate a particular building, the Problem Building By-law makes provision for the City to approach the courts for relief.”
On Wednesday the Sheriff of the Court removed more than 200 people from two problem buildings at 42 and 44 Commercial Street in the CBD. Both buildings were occupied illegally.
Police said more than 100 undocumented people were taken to the immigration office in Epping.
One tenant said he had been living there since 2001.
Benjamin Bemba said: “Things turned sour for us when we had the fire in August. We were told that the owner wanted us out and on Wednesday the Sheriff came and evicted us.”
He said some of the people who were taken to the immigration office returned.
“They were able to prove that they were in the country legally. Yesterday we were told that we should go to the building as our belongings were outside there.
“I have three bags which are missing and I don’t know how people will identify their belongings. People’s things were mixed up. The unclaimed things were taken to Salt River. There were still things inside the property, but we can’t go in.”
Bemba said he knew the buildings were a problem and had reported them to the authorities.
“When I noticed there were drug dealers, human trafficking, because I was leading the building, I reported these, but after the fire, the decision was taken about removing us. Not everyone sold drugs, but they didn’t see us as people.”
Shaun Kraak, advocacy officer for the Scalabrini Centre which works with asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants, said that despite this paper’s reporting, many of those in the building were legitimate refugees.
“The reference to everyone there as illegal foreigners is incorrect, and in fact, many were verified as legal at the Refugee Reception Office in Epping. Further, there were a number of South African citizens there along with them that were evicted,” said Kraak.