Woodstock residents to testify in bid to save their homes

Landlord’s lawyer argues that private owners do not have the same obligation to provide housing as government

Photo of residents talking to lawyer

Some residents of Albert Road in Woodstock chat to their lawyer, Mark Owen, outside the courtroom in Cape Town on Monday. Photo: Barbara Maregele

By Barbara Maregele

19 February 2018

Some Woodstock residents will testify in court on Tuesday in a bid to explain why the eviction orders against them should be set aside.

The case against a group of families facing eviction from their homes in Albert Road, Woodstock, commenced at the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on Monday. During the brief hearing, Magistrate Paul Jethro commended the lawyer representing the families, Mark Owen, for the interest he has taken in his clients.

“I assume that you have depicted their personal circumstances adequately in the opposing papers but I will afford them the opportunity to tell me their stories,” he said.

Some of the residents have been living in Woodstock for over three decades.

Jethro read a section of the heads of argument for the landlord’s lawyer, Ahmed Ebrahim, which stated: “A distinction has to be made for applicants for eviction of an unlawful occupier brought by land owners and evictions instituted by the state.”

Ebrahim’s argument further stated that “a private landowner has no obligation to provide housing to achieve the objects of Section 22 (1) of the Constitution.” Jethro then asked the lawyers to answer whether a distinction should be made between private landowners and the state and what role the Municipality Act plays when property is privately owned when they present their cases tomorrow.

The residents, living in a block converted into apartments in Albert Road, were served with eviction notices in March and April last year to vacate their homes for not paying rent. But the residents have accused the landlord, known only as Mr Patel, of neglecting to maintain the property.

The residents said they stopped paying rent after their water was cut more than a year ago due to non-payment. The landlord’s lawyer has disputed the residents’ version.

During an earlier hearing, the court asked the City of Cape Town to submit a report on possible alternative places for the residents to live. The City offered to house the families in Wolwerivier and Blikkiesdorp. Both of these areas are far from the city centre and the living conditions are grim.

The families have previously said that they would reject offers by the City if it suggests housing them outside of Woodstock.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.