Structures are torn down at 114 Military Road, Steenberg. A judge ruled against the city’s eviction plans and granted the Samuels family a 30-day reprieve. 
Picture: Bruce Sutherland

Cape Town - In the space of 48 hours, the fortunes of a Steenberg family changed dramatically after being granted interim relief from the threat of eviction.
Clive Samuels, his sickly wife and their three children faced down the City of Cape Town, the sheriff of the court and an army of workers who began tearing down structures on the property they have called home for a decade.

On the same afternoon, the city sent a press release hailing the eviction as a “victory” following a two-year battle.

It said: “The city is in the process of evicting illegal businesses and occupiers from its land at 114 Military Road, Steenberg. This eviction of the illegal businesses, which includes a scrap metal dealer, is a huge win for the city after two decades of court applications”.

But a day later, acting judge Diane Davis granted the family a 30-day reprieve.

According to Samuels, the city informed him on Monday afternoon that he had two hours to file an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court to stave off the eviction, resulting in a scramble by attorneys at Brink and Thomas to prevent the family from being out on the street.

Samuels said his wife had a heart condition and was receiving treatment at hospital.

“We are poor people. Where does the city expect us to find money for urgent high court applications? My wife was in a very bad state on Monday with all this happening around us.”

Councillor Stuart Diamond, mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, said: “There are various organisations that assist persons free. Mr Samuels approached the Legal Resources Centre for assistance but they were not prepared to assist him. The court considered the Samuels family’s personal circumstances when it made its order in August 2017 and alternative accommodation was offered to them by the city, which they refused.”

According to Samuels, his wife Yolanda can barely walk and the home has been fitted with railings to help her.

The city indicated to the family two years ago that they would be moved to Blikkiesdorp in Delft and there were plans to build houses on the two-hectare plot they and 40 other people were living on.

Samuels said the other tenants moved when the city announced the housing plans but his family stayed and fought to save their home.

Samuels said he was a paramount chief of the Khoi-San and that he had an ancestral claim to the land.

“This is an emotive issue. In this day and age when the land issue is so sensitive, they (the city) continue to pursue the matter in this way,” he said.

The original inhabitant of the land, Paul Basson, 73, saw his land claim fall through, but Samuels has been pursuing his claim since February 2016.

Basson has since moved to Strandfontein, where he is being cared for by his daughter.

Attorney Tersia Cassiem said the order by the acting judge was based on the family’s right to “access justice. The judge ruled that you cannot shut the door in the face of justice. An interim suspension was granted and we now have 30 days to appeal the original eviction order.”

She added that the judge said in her ruling Yolanda Samuels’s health would be adversely affected should the family move to Blikkiesdorp because the infrastructure in that area was not adequate to meet her health needs.

Cassiem said she had not heard whether the city would oppose the judge’s order.

Diamond said the city was the registered property owner.

“Mr Samuels submitted a land claim in respect of all land within the entire Greater Cape Metropole (including municipalities such as Stellenbosch, Mossel Bay, Saldanha Bay and Robben Island). The claim was submitted in a representative capacity on behalf of the Khoisan. The claim is not limited to this property but includes all the areas listed above.”

Weekend Argus