Last 100 Paradise Park residents in Hermanus evicted

Decade-long battle to stave off eviction comes to an end

By Marecia Damons

5 July 2024

Kosta and Sharyn Kassimatis said they used to visit family at Paradise Park from 1987, until they bought a home there six years ago. “We can’t expect anyone from the camp to help us move because they’re in the same predicament,” said Kassimatis. Photos: Marecia Damons

“We at Paradise Park were like a family, but now we’re split up,” says Elkerine Fourie as she packed up the last few items at her home in Paradise Park, Hermanus.

She and about 100 other people were evicted from the camping site this week, bringing to an end a decade-long struggle to stave off the eviction.

Located off the R43 in Vermont, Paradise Park was home to mostly pensioners and social grant beneficiaries. For many of the permanent residents, it was a place to quietly retire.

But residents were served with notices to vacate in 2015 and eviction notices in 2016, as the private park had run afoul of municipal regulations, the rectification of which would have cost millions of rand. The owner then decided to sell.

In 2017, Magna Business Services bought the 22-hectare park for development.

The residents went to court to stop their eviction. But in April 2022, the Western Cape High Court upheld the eviction and residents were given three months to vacate. The residents appealed and made an application to have the presiding judge recused. Both matters were dismissed in October 2022.

On 25 June this year, the court granted Magna a warrant to evict the remaining residents.

Evictions, led by the Red Ants, started on Monday and continued until Thursday. On Wednesday evening only a handful of families remained, packing their belongings.

When GroundUp visited the park in 2022, there had been more than 100 households.

Elkerine Fourie said she had to make a difficult decision and leave behind what she was unable to pack away. “I’ll sort through my belongings and see what I can sell when I’m in Sandbaai. I can’t start from scratch again. I cannot afford to buy a new home,” she said.

Kosta Kassimatis and his wife, Sharyn, have lived at Paradise Park for six years. They both rely on social grants. Kassimatis, who is paraplegic, does piecemeal woodwork jobs to make ends meet.

“A lot of other people’s stuff was dumped on the side of the road behind the camp. The same thing happened the last time people were evicted in 2022. People had to sleep next to their belongings to make sure they didn’t get stolen,” said Sharyn.

She said the only available place for her and her husband is at her brother’s home nearly two hours away in Philippi, Cape Town. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where we would go,” she said.

She said family friends collected most of their furniture on Tuesday and took it to Betty’s Bay, but they still need to figure out how to get it to Philippi.

“My pension is running out because I have to pay everyone petrol money for transporting my things. I can’t expect them to work for free,” Kosta said.

Elkerine Fourie has lived at Paradise Park since August 2018. She is also dependent on a social grant.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

She is going to move to a friend’s abandoned home in Sandbaai. The home’s electricity and water were cut off last year.

“At least I’ll have a roof over my head. Otherwise, I will have to sleep in the bushes like a bergie,” she said.

Emma Duddy said that she and her three children will have to share an RDP house in Hawston with another resident and her son. She is unemployed. She has lived at Paradise Park for seven years.

“It’s going to be tight because there’s six of us plus our cats and dogs. We’ll continue looking for a bigger place, but our priority is having a roof over our heads and not ending up sleeping on the streets,” she said.

In 2018, the municipality allocated emergency housing in the Stanford Housing Development, about 30 kilometres from Paradise Park. Applicants for the emergency housing at Stanford would receive: a toilet for every five households (including a disabled-friendly toilet); a tap for 20 households with additional taps for ease access for the elderly; and a 24m² informal housing unit per applicant.

But Fourie said, “They were offering us tin sheets that we would have to put up by ourselves.”

Sharyn Kassimatis said they refused to move to the emergency housing because of the lack of facilities. “We would need to go outside to use the ablution block. But what about Kosta who’s in a wheelchair? Why must I move into a tin shack if I have a house?”

Overstrand municipal manager Dean O’Neill said the municipality “will assist where it can with emergency housing should there be a request for it”.

Residents’ belongings were left on the side of the Malmock Crescent Road behind the park on Monday and Tuesday.