Waste pickers. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - The City of Tshwane proposed the Lyttelton Town Hall as emergency alternative accommodation for a group of homeless waste pickers who have illegally invaded private land next to the Centurion cricket ground.

About two months ago, the City was ordered to present a plan to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, outlining whether there was emergency housing available for about 100 people facing eviction.

They occupy at present a small portion of land located on West Avenue just opposite the SuperSport Park cricket stadium. The property is also known as Mushroomville or the old mushroom farm.

Turnover Trading 191 (Pty) Ltd, the owner of the property, want the recyclers off the land, as they want to develop it. But before they can oust the homeless, the City has to first find alternative accommodation for them.

While the homeless have no gripe about moving, they are insisting that it be to land where they can both stay and run their trade as waste pickers.

Lawyers for Human Rights, which is assisting the waste packers, said this case was not simply about whether emergency accommodation would be provided once an eviction order was granted; it was about the livelihoods of dozens of desperate people.

“Recyclers are entrepreneurs, who are trying to make a living, and they will naturally reside near places with high economic activity and where their clientele can easily access their services,” said Louise du Plessis, of Lawyers for Human Rights.

The City was back in court yesterday to present its plan to relocate the people temporarily to the Lyttelton Town Hall. This proposal had both counsel for Lawyers for Human Rights, as well as Judge Neil Tuchten, frowning for various reasons.

The judge had sent the City back to the drawing board to come up with a new proposal to present to the court today.

In an affidavit presented to court, the City said the town hall was ideal, as it was close to where the homeless now stayed.

It also said the hall was situated within a precinct shared by offices of the Tshwane Metro Police, as well as a municipal court. It was said this would make the monitoring of these people easier.

The City described the infrastructure of the hall to the court and said it had three men’s and three women’s toilets, as well as two unisex showers.

There was both a kitchen and stove, and the hall was available from January 1, the judge was told.

The City even offered to help the homeless to relocate to the hall, where they would be permitted to stay for three months and then be allowed to register with the City’s housing programme. But it was made clear that their recycling business was not welcome.

The City referred the court to the Bill of Rights, which said every citizen had the right to work.

Thus, taking away the only income these people have - by sorting and selling waste - their livelihoods were being taken away. Simply put, Lawyers for Human Rights told the judge if they could not continue to waste pick, they would not be able to earn money and thus could not buy food.

The City’s stance was that it was impossible to offer the homeless accommodation where they could sleep and store their waste, as this was not legally permissible in terms of the by-laws.

It said it was identifying 30 sites for the development of waste sorting and storage facilities but at this stage it could not agree to a court order that the homeless could continue recycling in an area which was not zoned for it.

Pretoria News