Woodstock residents facing eviction describe neglect by landlord

Brother of 52-year-old man who died in a fire in Albert Road two years ago says he is still traumatised by the event

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Photo of people outside a building
Albert Road resident Desire Ling talks to the lawyer for the residents facing eviction, Mark Owen, after their matter was postponed at Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. Photo Barbara Maregele

Woodstock residents who are among a group of 15 families served with eviction notices in Albert Road made a brief appearance at the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning. The matter was postponed until 13 July so that a report can be handed in by the City of Cape Town on its ability to assist the families with alternative accommodation.

The families were served with eviction notices (some in March, some in April) to vacate their homes by the end of May for not paying rent.

Residents in turn accuse the landlord, known only as Mr Patel, of neglecting to maintain the property. They say they stopped paying rent after their water was cut off nearly a year ago by the municipality due to non-payment by the landlord.

Residents say their high water bills are a result of their attempts to douse two fires on the property in June 2015 and again in December 2016. The landlord’s lawyer, Ahmed Ebrahim, has disputed these claims.

During their previous court appearance, the group’s legal aid lawyer Mark Owen asked for the City to be involved in the case “given the nature of this case and the number of evictions [involved]”.

Among the residents is Ismail Shaik Rahim, the brother of 52-year-old Mohamed Shaik Rahim who died two years ago when fire gutted part of the block converted into apartments. He says the family is still traumatised.

Outside court, Rahim said his sister, Zainab Saleem, her husband and their two sons were forced to find alternative accommodation after the apartment and shop they were renting burnt down in June 2015. 

“I was asleep upstairs when I heard my brother-in-law screaming that there was a fire. I can still smell the burning plastic. My sister, Zainab, and her two sons had to jump out of the upstairs window to get away. My brother was the last one that had to jump. Unfortunately, he was burnt and didn’t make it. He [the landlord] didn’t even bother to see if we are okay. He doesn’t care that this is affecting people even those with children,” said Rahim.

He said he slept on the streets “for a long time” until he found shelter at Cissie Gool House. He said the court case revived the memories of seeing his brother’s charred remains being removed from the apartment.

Resident Nazley Salie said that since the fires she received a water bill of R18,000. Rental money was then used towards the bill, but the total water bill for the block has not been settled.

Salie, who has lived in Woodstock for nearly 35 years, said households were still without water. She said that those who could afford it were buying water and others were still borrowing buckets of water from neighbours.

TOPICS:  Housing Water

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