End of ‘unlawful’ occupation

The Helen Bowden Nurses Home

The provincial Department of Transport and Public Works has begun the process of notifying each of the occupants of the Helen Bowden Nurses Home site, located in part of the Somerset precinct and close to the V&A Waterfront, about their decision “to engage with them to bring to an end their current unlawful occupation of the site.”

The site has been dubbed Ahmed Kathrada House by Reclaim the City.

MEC for Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, said the site is currently unlawfully occupied by supporters of the group Reclaim the City, a Cape Town-based campaign for desegregation and affordable housing development in the inner city as the unlawful occupation was encouraged and begun by activist group Ndifuna Ukwazi, almost a year ago.

Mr Grant said the provincial government has been forced to contract additional security for the site at a cost of close to R3 million a month since the unlawful occupation took place. Prior to the “unlawful” occupation, the department was spending in the region of R300000 a month on security. This cost has grown exponentially since the occupation almost a year ago. In this current financial year alone, the provincial government has spent over R35million on securing this property against continued invasions, vandalism and theft.”

Mr Grant said the department had sent letters to each of the unlawful occupants.

“The department has sent letters to each of the unlawful occupants. In the letter, the Department of Transport and Public Works has requested that the unlawful occupants provide us with information that will assist us in facilitating their vacation of the property in a negotiated, transparent, and orderly manner. That is all we are intending to do at this point.”

Atlantic Sun is in possession of the letter which should have been issued to occupants but are being withheld by Reclaim the City’s lawyers because they wanted to meet with the occupiers of the Helen Bowden Nurses Home site first.

Mr Grant said: “In our letters, the Department of Transport and Public Works makes it clear that the continued unlawful occupation of the site is likely to hinder the planned development on the Helen Bowden site that will see the erection of 302 social housing units.”

When asked if the site would consist of only 302 units, whether it would be to rent or buy and who would qualify to rent or buy the units, Mr Grant said: “ The redevelopment of the entire Somerset precinct has the potential to deliver a lot more units. 302 is what we know to be possible for a particular portion of the Helen Bowden site.”

Mr Grant said he hoped all the unlawful occupants would work with the department to ensure that they leave the property timeously.

“Reclaim the City has long purported to be advocates for social housing; we hope that they will therefore do all they can to assist us in ensuring that we are able to proceed with the redevelopment of the Helen Bowden site that will see the erection of 302 social housing units thereon as soon as possible.”

Atlantic Sun visited the site, escorted by one of the occupants. When we approached one of the female occupants, she said she would not comment and fled to security.

However, Lyle Jones, who was willing to comment, said: “My wife has been on the list for 27 years already since 1991. I’m not moving until I get a house.”

Reclaim the City co-ordinator committee member, Bevel Lucas, said a full statement would be forwarded in due course.

“We want the Western Cape government to engage with us and tell us their plans for land and housing, for Ahmed Kathrada House and for the whole inner city. We want them to hear our struggles – to hear why we are here,” he said.