Tension over Erf 81

Residents in court over ERF 81 storerooms in Tamboerskloof.

The Tamboerskloof Residents’ Association (TRA) and housing rights group Ndifuna Ukwazi were on opposing sides of the court last week in a matter concerning the old military base known as Erf 81.

The Tamboerskloof site is owned by the national government and administered by the Department of Public Works.

In April this year, when asked about the plans for the site, the department said the property is required for military purposes.

A group of people occupied the property and have lived on it since it was abandoned as a military base.

In July 2016, the government issued eviction notices to the occupiers which they opposed.

Earlier this year, a small group of people moved into a storeroom on the property. This was not welcomed by some residents in the area and members of the TRA filed a court application for the eviction of those who have occupied the storeroom.

The association chairperson, Jacques Shaban, said they seek the eviction of eight people who, at the instigation of a political organisation, they believe, managed to enter Erf 81, cut the locks off the doors of the historic storerooms and settle there among the furniture kept in these rooms by the state.

“On the other hand we seek an order compelling the custodian of the property for government to explain to the court what its intentions are with the property and more particularly how it intends to secure same in order to prevent this kind of invasion in future, whether politically motivated or otherwise,” he said.

Mr Shaban said the TRA believes the property should be developed as a matter of urgency, including an affordable housing component.

“This kind of invasion impacts negatively on any such project. Further invasions may even render the property sterile. Ultimately this will be to the disadvantage of the working poor and lower middle class, who aspire to live in the city, closer to work opportunities,” he said.

In a press statement released by Ndifuna Ukwazi, the housing activist group said this application was a demonstration of the association using its, “privilege, resources and power in a manner not allowed in law, to assume the powers of the state, which would result in the oppression of the poor, vulnerable and landless”.

“The TRA members have claimed that the presence of the occupiers will increase crime and decrease their property values. But, being poor does not make someone a criminal. Poor, black and coloured working-class people, like those the association seek to evict, are the same people that the privileged classes rely on for labour and services. They rely on domestic workers to clean their homes, nannies to take care of their children and gardeners to keep their gardens and houses well-maintained,” they said.

They said in this matter, the TRA is effectively trying to “reassert legal principles and stigmas from the bygone apartheid era, when the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act (PISA) gave (white) landowners and authorities wide-ranging powers” to evict and destroy the homes of unlawful occupiers.

The matter has been postponed to May next year.