City counts number of occupiers in Woodstock Hospital

Residents welcome “first direct interaction” with City

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Photo of Woodstock Hospital
Woodstock Hospital was occupied in March 2017. The number of people has increased over time, and the City has now done an official count. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Members of the unlawful occupation at Woodstock Hospital have welcomed City of Cape Town officials compiling a list of their names as part of the City’s ongoing response to the situation.

“For the first time now we have direct interaction between the City and the occupiers,” said Bevil Lucas, who has been part of the occupation since August 2017. “For us it is the beginning of some cooperation with the City. So there’s a positive attitude towards the approach by the City. It’s very welcomed.”

The listing took place on 19 January and was one of the conditions of the interim interdict granted to the City on 27 October 2018. The interdict prevents further illegal occupation but does “not entitle the Applicant [City of Cape Town]” to evict the current occupiers.

The list contains the name, ID number and room number of 497 of the occupiers. It was supposed to be compiled within ten days of the granting of the interdict, but the occupiers’ lawyer Jonty Cogger said “the inability of legal representatives to agree to the type of personal information and the process by which it should be collected” delayed the process.

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, councillor Malusi Booi, said the City is in the process of finalising the list. When GroundUp asked the City what the list will be used for Booi said, “the matter is sub judice [under judgment]” and cannot be answered.

Cogger said that the process went smoothly. “The City officials were so surprised at how clean and orderly the occupation was … Despite previous indications that they would be accompanied by law enforcement officers, only 11 City officials were present. No law enforcement.”

“I think there is a perception amongst the majority of people that this occupation is filled with a bunch of criminals and lots of drugs … That if someone resorts to unlawful acts they must be of a certain kind of character … Normal people — families, women, children — live at the occupation,” said Cogger.

The hospital was occupied in March 2017, and the number of residents has increased steadily since then. The occupation is run by Reclaim the City, which has “renamed” the hospital Cissie Gool House. Gool was an anti-apartheid activist and a member of the Cape Town City Council until her death in 1963.

Lucas said that although he and the rest of the occupiers were positive about the engagement he is curious as to what will happen when the matter goes back to court at the end of January. “It will be very interesting to see how the legal representatives [for the City] respond … to the list,” he said.

The court order of 27 October 2018 states that the matter will go to court on 30 January 2019, when it will be decided whether the interim interdict should be made final.

TOPICS:  Housing

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