Mass evictions from social housing complex

The City of Cape Town claims that the the evictions are related to noncompliance with lease agreements. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

About 30 families in Steenberg were evicted from their homes in Steenvilla complex on Wednesday. Steenvilla is the largest social housing complex in Cape Town with over 700 units.

Steenberg, Cape Town, South Africa

About 30 families in Steenberg were evicted from their homes in Steenvilla complex on Wednesday. Steenvilla is the largest social housing complex in Cape Town with over 700 units. The units are subsidised by the state, allowing the company that manages the block, Sohco, to charge rents that are below market rates.

The evicted families could not afford the rent every month. Most of them have lost their jobs and some are pensioners. They accuse law firms representing them in the dispute of failing to protect their interests.

By Thursday morning when Elitsha visited Steenvilla, the evicted residents were out of the complex. Their furniture, blankets and other household goods were strewn over the ground along the fence outside. They warmed themselves at a fire or wrapped themselves in blankets.

Beryl Schouw, the chairperson of Steenvilla Action Group says this wasn’t the first time some of these people have been evicted and that Sohco shows no mercy. She adds that the evictees are no longer eligible for a housing subsidy.

“Had we known that the rentals were going to escalate at this rate we would not have moved in. We should have waited for RDP houses. Now it’s very difficult for us,” she says.

55-year-old Beverley Cupido told Elitsha that she slept in a chair the previous night. “This is a very bad situation for us all. We have spent a night outside under this cold weather and I cannot stand the cold. I was sitting on this chair for the whole night. Look my feet and fingers are sore. This is because I have been in a very uncomfortable place for long hours,” she said.

Cupido is one of the first tenants to stay at Steenvilla. She used to rent in Mitchell’s Plain and moving to Steenvilla for her was a relief because she was looking forward to having a place she called her own.

She lost her job as a domestic worker three years ago and since then could not afford to pay the R2,400 rent for her house.

“When I moved in Steenvilla end of 2009 I was able to pay R1,000 rent because I was employed permanently as a maid. Since I lost my job things are not the same anymore. I tried explaining myself to Sohco authorities but they never listened to any explanation. All they want is their money,” she says.

Cupido has two foster children who are in Grades 1 and 6. “Last night my children were taken back in Steenvilla complex by other tenants who were not victims of eviction. Today they have already gone to school,” she says.

Another evictee Ramona September says, “I cannot go back to my mother in Wynberg where I used to stay before. I have two children and there is not enough space for me and the children at my mother’s place.”

She moved to Steenvilla in 2010. This was her third time facing evictions.

“After I got divorced I could no longer afford the rentals. I have been in arrears since 2012. I requested to be moved to smaller units but they never listened,” she says.

Most of the evictees complained that Red Ants, the security firm that carried out the eviction broke their furniture in the process.

Also read:  The City and the province won't expropriate land for housing

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About Bernard Chiguvare 56 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.