Fighting for a home

Sea Point residents Thandeka Beauty Sisusa and Sheila Madikana are both facing eviction.

While most families will be looking forward to the festive season, one Sea Point family is still unsure if they will have a roof over their heads come Christmas.

Thandeka Beauty Sisusa, a housing activist in the area for about 10 years, is one of many people threatened with eviction.

Ms Sisusa, who works as a secretary at the Castle of Good Hope, has been fighting for the rights of working-class people for several years, and now she’s fighting her own battle: her case against her eviction, which she has been fighting since 2014, is set to be heard at the Western Cape High Court today (Thursday December 15).

Ms Sisusa said the fight for affordable housing in the area was not a new one but one they were determined to see through to the end. “We haven’t got the freedom to stay with our families, with our kids. We saw that we need to do something about this because that is not a life we want to have as a human being… I am not ready to be out and have not found an alternative place yet.”

She said her two-month-old granddaughter had only just come out of hospital, where she had been treated for meningitis.

The doctors still needed to monitor her progress at nearby Somerset Hospital.

Ms Sisusa claimed the landlords at Rapallo Apartments in Sea Point wanted to turn the domestic quarters where she stays into a storage facility.

“It surprised me that it could be more important to store things than a human being’s life. The most important thing is that there is a small child involved. I am risking the life of that small child if I have to move far away,” she said.The high cost of living in Sea Point was chasing a lot of working-class people out of the area, she said.

“Sea Point is for everyone, it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, or coloured.”

This is just one of the reasons why housing activists in the area are so adamant that the Tafelberg site, owned by the provincial Department of Public Works, should be used for affordable housing.

The site was sold by province earlier this year to Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School for R135 million, but the activist organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi sought an interdict in the Western Cape High Court that put the brakes on the sale and forced province to roll it back to the public participation phase.

At the end of last month, Reclaim The City held a protest in support of Ms Sisusa and others facing similar difficulties.

In a statement they said: “We are calling for an immediate end to all evictions from ‘maids’ rooms’ and other tiny rooms that have been the homes of the workers of Sea Point and their families for several decades.

“Despite paying their rents regularly, working class African and coloured residents of Sea Point are being evicted so that their homes can simply be boarded up, left vacant or used as store rooms.

“It is incredibly difficult to find well-located alternative accommodation at affordable rates, so evicted tenants, including young children and elderly women, are being displaced to townships or into homelessness to make way for boxes, bikes and old furniture.”

Another Sea Point resident and Reclaim The City member, Sheila Madikana, also faces eviction. “These evictions are destroying our lives and our kids’ lives,” she said. “You are being evicted from a place where you are used to, the kids know it and the place you have lived in for years. When they take you to other places, it will take time to start over. Starting over is not easy because you are breaking in your whole body.”

She said economic circumstances often forced working class families apart. . “It makes us very sore inside, and it breaks my heart as a tenant of Sea Point for years.

“It seems to me like we don’t exist. Government needs to stand up for working class people in Sea Point.”

Ms Madikana has lived in Sea Point for 35 years. She stays with her three daughters and grandchild in a flat she shares with other tenants. She’s a domestic worker, but has been without a job for two years.

“There is a building that has been standing empty for years called the Maynard Mansions, and it belongs to government. They say that there are too much vagrants outside on the Main Road, but it is them that make us vagrants. They are kicking us out of the rooms and throwing us out,” she said.

She appealed to Sea Point residents to stand together and fight the battle for affordable housing. “I know it is very hard to win this battle, but we need to fight it. We’ve come very far, so far, and we need to know this is not the end.”

Ndifuna Ukwazi attorney Mandisa Shandu is representing some of the residents faced with eviction. She said there were various reasons for the evictions, such as the lease period ending; the termination of month-to-month leases; the sale of properties to new owners who no longer wish to lease them; or tenants no longer being able to afford the rapidly increasing rents.

The Atlantic Sun approached

Marlon Shevelew Associates, the attorneys representing the owners the of the Rapallo Apartments,

but they did not respond to written questions by the time of going to print.