Press Statement: 9 November 2022
Where must we go? Bromwell Street matter to be heard at the Supreme Court of Appeal – Monday 14 November 2022
In November 2021, the Bromwell Street residents, represented by Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre won a landmark judgment against the City of Cape Town – which declared that the City’s emergency housing programme and implementation (in relation to inner-city evictees rendered homeless upon eviction) is unconstitutional. The Court ordered that the City was to provide the residents with temporary emergency accommodation or transitional housing as close to their current homes as possible.
The effect of this case could bring evictees facing homelessness in the City of Cape Town, one step closer to more dignified temporary accommodation. This means that the disruption and displacement that evictees currently face would be limited and remedied. And more broadly, it would interrupt policies that perpetuate market related removals and spatial apartheid.
The City was granted leave to appeal and the matter will be heard at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein on 14 November 2022.
This judgment and laws like the PIE Act, are critical in protecting the dignity of those who face eviction, and any attempts to erode these protections must be defended against.
says Disha Govender, lead attorney and Head of the Law Centre at Ndifuna Ukwazi.
It’s nearly 6 years since the case has been fought, with the Bromwell Street residents continuing to live their lives in the area, though the constant suspense of a looming eviction. Some of the children who were toddlers at the beginning of this case are now mid-way through primary school.
said Ntombi Sambu, a political organiser for Ndifuna Ukwazi who has worked with the residents alongside Govender.
Despite the main cause of evictions being the failures of the state to manage land and property markets, the City of Cape Town has been reluctant to provide necessary remedy. In part this is about betterlocated alternative accommodation for people that are often evicted into landlessness and homelessness.
There are thousands of people being displaced across Cape Town without due regard to their dignity as people or to their ability to earn an income, nor to the detrimental effect of the overall economy. The need for well-located affordable housing of all kinds including temporary or transitional housing is great and critical.
In a city like Cape Town where there is such inequality and continued segregation one expects the City to engage with this reality with the urgency it requires. Where does the City want people to go if it does not provide well-located affordable housing? It cannot continue to relegate poor black and brown people to the outskirts of the city where their vulnerability is compounded. Policies or implementation of policies which do this fly in the face of spatial justice.
The Complicated Web of Reluctance and Failure to Delivery Well-Located Affordable Housing
One of the Bromwell Street residents is a trader at the Salt River Market. This site was recently released for social housing but the traders of the market have not been informed what will become of them, meaning the threat to this resident’s life and livelihood are both under threat from the failure of the City to meaningfully engage with poor and working class families.
At the same time, the City promised the people living in the stables at the back of the Salt River Market that they would be accommodated in transitional housing on a piece of public land called James Street in the area in 2017. However the plans for this seem to have collapsed with the site now proposed for social housing
says Robyn Park-Ross, researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi.
Reclaim the City which has two occupations of nearly 2000 people in the inner-city said in a recent statement,
The Mayor has time and time again referred to us as queue jumpers who are not on the housing list. This is an inaccurate statement, many of us are on the housing list and have been for decades. Had it not been for houses like Cissie Gool House and Ahmad Kathrada House in Green Point, we would have found ourselves on the streets. These houses responded to the urgent need of housing that the City failed to address.
The City must urgently face the reality of its housing crisis. The population growth and economic capability of the population have all been predicted, and are evidenced in the Cities many reports. Failure to address this with urgency will deepen the homelessness crisis.
said Jonty Cogger, attorney at Ndifuna Ukwazi.
Facts of the Matter
The Bromwell Street residents, a group of poor and working class families that have lived in a row of cottages on Bromwell Street in Salt River for generations and are facing eviction at the hands of the current owner of the Woodstock Hub, are challenging the constitutionality of the City of Cape Town (the City)’s housing programmes. The residents argue that the City’s emergency housing programme and implementation of it is unconstitutional because they unlawfully exclude from its delivery of housing in the inner city, temporary emergency housing for people that are at risk of an eviction into homelessness, and unfairly discriminate against people who are evicted from private land. Instead the only temporary emergency housing the City provides for poor and working class families is in far-flung temporary relocation areas (TRAs), incremental development areas (IDAs) and informal settlements.