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Court orders eviction of squatters from CBD sites

The Western Cape High Court has issued a final eviction order for numerous unlawful occupation sites in Cape Town’s CBD. These sites include hotspots along Buitengracht Street, FW De Klerk Boulevard, Foregate Square, taxi ranks and Foreshore, Helen Suzman Boulevard, Strand Street, Foreshore/N1, Virginia Avenue, and Mill Street Bridge.

The court’s decision, announced on 18 June, concludes a prolonged legal process that began with eviction notices in February 2023 and faced delays due to opposition from a Johannesburg-based NGO.

The court’s ruling enforces a standing interdict against further unlawful occupation of these areas. The Sheriff of the court is authorized to carry out the evictions after 30 July if any unlawful occupants remain. The city has continually offered social assistance to those affected, emphasizing the availability of dignified transitional shelters at City-run Safe Spaces.

Transitional shelters and social assistance in Cape Town

City officials have consistently provided social support to individuals unlawfully occupying public spaces, offering accommodations at NGO-run night shelters and City-operated Safe Spaces. These shelters aim to reintegrate individuals into society or reunite them with family members, providing dignified transitional shelter and social programs.

Safe Spaces offer more than just a place to stay; they include personal development planning, employment opportunities, and referrals for mental health, medical, and substance abuse treatment. The City promotes these services as the best option for dignity, health, and well-being, encouraging individuals to accept assistance and transition off the streets sustainably.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis welcomed the court’s order, highlighting its role in restoring public spaces for all Cape Town residents.

‘Where offers of help to get off the streets have been persistently refused, we continue to seek the court’s help as a last resort. No person has the right to reserve a public space as exclusively theirs, while indefinitely refusing all offers of shelter and social assistance,’ said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Expansion of safe space shelters

To further support those in need, the City plans to spend over R220 million in the next three years to expand and operate its Safe Space transitional shelters. This expansion will increase the current capacity of 770 beds across facilities in the CBD, Bellville, and Durbanville. A new 300-bed Safe Space in Green Point is set to open soon, adding to the existing 510 beds at two Safe Spaces in the east CBD.

The City also recently contributed R500 000 to boost the CBD’s Haven Night Shelter’s capacity from 96 to 156 beds. Last winter, the City enabled several NGOs to add 300 temporary bed spaces to meet the increased demand for shelter, deploying 184 Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers to assist non-profit organizations.

In the past year, the city has provided shelter placement or referrals to nearly 3,500 individuals. This includes 2246 shelter placements, 112 family reunifications, 1124 referrals to social services, and over 880 short-term job opportunities through the EPWP.

The City’s comprehensive Safe Space model includes dignified shelter, meals, access to social workers, personal development plans, substance abuse treatment, skills training, job placement assistance, and more.

The High Court has also granted two similar eviction orders in recent months for central Cape Town. These orders resulted in the eviction of unlawful occupants at the Green Point Tennis Courts and the Nelson Mandela Boulevard intersection with Hertzog Boulevard, Old Marine Drive, and Christiaan Barnard Bridge.

Additionally, the national Department of Public Works is expected to file an eviction application for the area surrounding the Castle of Good Hope soon.

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