Reclaim the City members outside the western cape high court.
- The City of Cape Town says occupiers of the Woodstock Hospital are in contempt of a court order.
- The City adds that the number of occupiers has increased substantially.
- Reclaim the City has strongly opposed the matter, saying it did not have sufficient time to respond.
A legal showdown between illegal occupiers at the defunct Woodstock Hospital and the City of Cape Town is looming.
The City approached the Western Cape High Court to seek an order to conduct a survey of the 1 000 occupants staying in the property.
The occupiers, who are part of the Reclaim the City movement, have strongly opposed the matter. They say they did not have sufficient time to respond.
The occupiers were represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies.
Their advocate, Sheldon Magardie, told the court: “This matter is opposed, we don’t believe the order should be granted. There is a number of prejudicial issues. We have not been given any notice of these proceedings and there is no reason why this application is urgent.”
Magardie said the reason they are opposing the matter is because of issues with regard to the survey.
“It’s not just to collect names and identity numbers. [The City] is collecting a series of information from the occupiers that is regulated in the Protection of Personal Information Act. It sets out specifically, in relation to children, they are asking personal information with regards to the children of the occupiers. There is a specific section in the Act which prohibit this,” he said.
The legal representative for the City, Renate Williams, said: “Their reason has no merit. The City needs that information. It’s not the City’s intention that we want to evict people without ensuring that people are not accommodated elsewhere. There is no merit in their argument.”
The matter has been postponed to 22 April.
In October 2018, the court granted an order interdicting and restraining Reclaim the City from “inciting persons to enter or be upon the property for the purpose of unlawfully occupying or invading”.
The City said the occupants are in contempt of the order and the number of occupiers has increased substantially.
It said this is coupled with reports of criminality, rent extortion rackets, violence and mob activity, to the detriment of the surrounding community.
The hospital was occupied in March 2017 and, since the occupation, the number of residents has increased.
The occupation was organised by Reclaim the City, who renamed the hospital “Cissie Gool House”.
According to the City, the illegal occupation has seen an increase in by-law contraventions, which has forced it to beef up law enforcement at a cost of R400 000 per month.
The leader of the Reclaim the City Woodstock Chapter, Karen Hendricks, said: “The City’s refusal to delay the application to allow us to oppose is an insult to the principles of justice and, in our opinion, is an abuse of the court process.
“We can only see the City’s actions as an attempt to use this court process to ambush us, limit our ability to oppose, and prevent us from participating fully in a court case that is fundamentally about us and our rights. The City is trying to get a court order about us, without us.”
Earlier this week, the City said the survey will be used to determine the number of illegal occupants, their identities, monthly income, eligibility for state-subsidised housing and willingness to vacate the property, so that social housing plans are not further delayed.