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Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has offered the City’s full support to the national Department of Public Works in urgently resolving the unlawful occupation on nationally-owned land around the Castle of Good Hope in the city’s CBD. If needs be, the City is prepared to launch an eviction application on behalf of Public Works with the necessary consent and power of attorney, so as to ensure the relocation of the occupants and restoration of public access to the site and surrounding Moat.
In a letter to National Minister Sihle Zikalala, Mayor Hill-Lewis calls for urgent confirmation of Public Works’ prior undertaking to launch an eviction application for the nationally-owned land around the Castle.
‘The Castle is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town and is a Grade 1 National Monument. It is also one of the first sites a person experiences when coming off the highway and entering the CBD. It is one of the top tourist destinations in Cape Town, and is visited annually by thousands of tourists and schoolchildren. Without an intervention to stop the further unlawful occupation, the Castle’s status as a top tourist destination and national landmark will be impacted, with a 90% drop in visitors already.
‘The affected property is not fit for human habitation. The property is unsafe due to its proximity, in particular to, vehicular traffic. There is no access to water, sanitation services, or electricity. The result is a three-fold consequence of risk to the health and safety of those unlawfully occupying it; the deprivation of access to public places for residents and tourists; and business flight from the affected areas,’ writes Mayor Hill-Lewis in his letter to Minister Zikalala.
Hill-Lewis has further informed Minister Zikalala that the City is also prepared to launch the eviction application on behalf of Public Works, with the necessary consent and power of attorney.
If no response is received by 16 June, the City ‘will have to assume that the National Government has neither the capacity nor the will to act in the public interest urgently in this matter or at all’. Should Public Works fail to meet deadline, Hill-Lewis says the City will have no option but to act in the public interest by seeking the appropriate relief from the courts to ensure the site is restored, on a just and equitable basis.
‘We sincerely hope this will not be necessary and that you will now instruct your officials - and the state attorney - to take the necessary urgent action to initiate court proceedings for an order to relocate the unlawful occupants around the Castle, and to ensure the area is secured after relocation to prevent a similar occupation. The City is more than willing to assist you, and we look forward to hearing from you by 16 June in this regard,’ writes Hill-Lewis.
National government has so far failed to initiate court action to resolve the unlawful occupation despite Mayor Hill-Lewis previously writing to former Public Works Minister De Lille in December 2022, and President Ramaphosa in February 2022. The City further engaged the trustees of the Castle, who support action being taken to address the situation.
In March, Public Works reached out for assistance from the City’s social development officials to screen unlawful occupants and offer social assistance, including dignified transitional shelter at City-run Safe Spaces and NGO-run night shelters. Those offers were refused and Public Works were advised accordingly in April this year.
The occupation has now been in place for two years or more and the occupants have to date refused all assistance from the City. No person has the right to indefinitely refuse all offers of social assistance while exclusively reserving a public place for themselves. Accepting social support and dignified transitional shelter is the best choice for dignity, safety, and well-being.
The City currently operates two Safe Spaces at Culemborg in the east CBD which offers 480 shelter beds across the facilities, with the outcome of public comment currently being analysed on a possible 300-bed facility at Ebenezer Road in Green Point.
The City is further helping shelters with resources to add over 300 beds as part of the annual Winter Readiness Campaign 2023.
Since the start of the 22/23 financial year in July 2022, City social development interventions have resulted in over 1 500 people helped off the streets around the metro.
The Safe Space model includes:
- dignified shelter,
- comfort and ablutions,
- two meals per day,
- access to a social worker on-site,
- personal development planning,
- various social services including ID Book and social grant assistance,
- family reunification services
- access to substance and alcohol abuse treatment,
- skills training,
- help finding a job, and
- access to EPWP work placement
Submitted by the City of Cape Town