THE ONLY HOME SHE’S EVER KNOWN: Brenda Smith, 75.   CREDIT: Brendan Magaar
THE ONLY HOME SHE’S EVER KNOWN: Brenda Smith, 75. CREDIT: Brendan Magaar
FIGHTING: Community spokesperson and resident Charnell Commando, 29
FIGHTING: Community spokesperson and resident Charnell Commando, 29
DEMONSTRATION: Community protested at Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock on Saturday
DEMONSTRATION: Community protested at Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock on Saturday

More than 100 people from a community in Woodstock are being evicted – and they believe it’s to make way for a parking lot.

The 28 families of Bromwell Street have refused to leave, saying they fear for their lives should they be moved to the Cape Flats.

Some of the families go back four generations, having lived in the houses for 75 years.

In October 2013, Reza Syms, the owner of the seven properties – 120 through to 128 Bromwell Street – sold it the Woodstock Hub.

In July 2015, the families received eviction notices, and were ordered to vacate their homes by September 9, 2016.

CREDIT: Brendan Magaar

The properties are a stone’s throw away from the popular Old Biscuit Mill, and according to residents, the owners want to turn their homes into a parking area for trendy shoppers.

Resident Graham Beukes says eviction activist movement Reclaim the City told residents of the building plans.

The Biscuit Mill, however, denies any involvement in the matter, saying the property does not belong to them.

The residents have appealed to authorities to provide them with houses close to the City, fearing they will be “dumped” in Blikkiesdorp, the City of Cape Town’s most notorious temporary relocation area, which is now home to 15 000 people.

Some of the older residents have been offered a place in Delft, but some like Brenda Smith, who has lived at 128 Bromwell Street for 75 years, says she is not prepared to “go and die in Blikkiesdorp”.

The great-grandmother shares her home with her sisters and three generations of children.

“I was born in this house and I thought I was going to die here, just like my mother did,” she tells the Daily Voice.

“My mother lived here for a very long time and died at 95 years old.”

Brenda turned down an offer to move to Delft from the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements.

Dis te ver van alles af,” says Brenda.

“My children work nearby and the others attend schools here. I don’t know what is going to happen to us when we have to move.”

Community spokesperson and resident Charnell Commando, 29, says they dread moving to the Cape Flats because of gang violence.

On Saturday, the residents occupied the Old Biscuit Mill, holding a peaceful demonstration.

Charnell says: “Right now everything is very tense here. We don’t have anywhere else to go and we can’t afford housing in this area because it’s expensive.

“I lived here all my life and we are all like a family.

“I don’t understand why they want to evict people who live in these houses every day to build a parking lot that will be used once a week.”

She says residents are prepared to live in hokkies in Woodstock if the City would let them.

“There are a lot of open spaces and vacant buildings around here,” Charnell says.

“Before the election, the housing MEC [Bonginkosi Madikizela] came and promised to help Aunty Brenda but they wanted to send her to Blikkiesdorp. Now that the election is over, you don’t see anyone,” she says.

But spokesman for Human Settlements Zalisile Mbali says they are not aware of any plans to relocate residents to Blikkiesdorp.

“An opportunity was presented to her [Brenda] to relocate to one of our projects in Delft, however, she turned down the offer stating that the area is too far from where she is currently residing,” Mbali says.

“[In terms of the eviction] this is a legal matter; the department does not intend to interfere with court processes, hence the Minister is trying to find alternative accommodation for Mrs Smith.”

The City of Cape Town’s Benedicta van Minnen said the City is not involved as it is a private eviction.

“But, in general, we are working hard to enable subsidised accommodation for our more vulnerable residents in the near inner-city areas and across the metro,” she says.

“There are currently earmarked near-inner city social housing projects in the Woodstock and Salt River area.”

The Daily Voice could not reach the directors of the Woodstock Hub and was referred to an online statement.

“The seller [Reza Syms] confirmed to the Hub that he had made arrangements with the occupants to vacate the properties prior to transfer.

“The Hub offered a rental and consumption-free extension up until the 30th November 2014.

“On July 25, at the request of the occupants, The Hub extended the vacating date to the 8th August 2016.

“In an attempt to settle the matter amicably and afford the occupants a further 30-day extension, the parties concluded a settlement agreement allowing the occupants to vacate the property on the 9th of September 2016.

“This agreement was signed by all 28 of the occupants and been made an order of court by Acting Judge Weinkove of the Western Cape High Court.”