Families evicted at Cape Town’s biggest social housing complex

Tenants cried as their furniture was moved onto lawns outside Steenvilla

Photo of Red Ants removing furniture

Red Ants remove furniture from homes in Steenvilla on Thursday. All photos: Ashraf Hendricks

By Ashraf Hendricks

23 November 2017

About 50 members of the Red Ants security company, accompanied by police and private security, evicted residents at Steenvilla in Steenberg on Thursday.

When GroundUp’s reporter arrived on the scene one vehicle was burnt out and the gates at two of the entrances to the complex had been broken. A reporter from another publication was attacked earlier in the day.

The Red Ants, accompanied by security, moved from one complex to the next moving furniture into trucks. Residents watched and taunted them with threats as this happened. Some residents were seen breaking down and crying. “Don’t you see our tears? Don’t you feel our pain?” screamed one resident at members of the Red Ants. The furniture was then moved onto the lawns outside the complex.

Furniture of the evictees was left on the lawns outside Steenvilla.

Steenvilla is the largest social housing complex in Cape Town. It has 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. Rents at Steenvilla range from R1,000 to R3,150 per month.

An evictee, who wished to remain anonymous, said that “they [Sohco] are just creating problems”. The evictee stays with his aunt and 13-year-old daughter. He said this was not the first time he had faced eviction at Steenvilla. As a group of residents approached, the evictee became nervous and said that he did not want to speak to our reporter anymore. There has been a previous attempt to carry out evictions at Steenvilla but it had to be abandoned after the evictees resisted.

When it became clear the eviction was unstoppable, residents helped the evictees remove their furniture.

Heather Maxwell, the CEO of Sohco, told GroundUp that 31 eviction orders were being carried out on Thursday. She said that the majority of families being evicted were more than a year in arrears on their rent.

Ward councillor Sarita Peterson told GroundUp that this matter has been in court for over a year. Asked what arrangements for alternative accommodation had been made for the evictees, she said: “While one is sympathetic … there was room for them to come forward to make arrangements.” She said the matter was between Sohco and the tenants.

See also: Rent instead of owning: Is it a better model for low-income housing?

A car was burnt out earlier in the day.