Albatross eviction case hangs around Communicare’s neck

Albatross flats are part of Communicares social housing institution. Picture: KAREN WATKINS

Communicare has been accused of playing dirty in its bid to evict 11 people it claims illegally occupied flats at its Albatross complex in Thornton, but the social-housing non-profit company denies this, saying it’s the victim of criminal conduct.

The case was heard in the Western Cape High Court last week, but the matter was postponed indefinitely, according to Advocate Anele Mbenyane, who is representing the 11, because the court is under Covid-19 lockdown.

Communicare has had the complex’s pedestrian gates welded closed and the electric-gate motors deactivated. Neville Petersen says this was a retaliative act against the 11. An Albatross complex resident and spokesman for Communicare Tenants Beneficiaries, he speaks on behalf of the 11 facing eviction.

However, Communicare spokeswoman Michelle Matthee, said there was nothing sinister about it. It was a Covid-19 control measure the company had had to resort to because someone had repeatedly cut the padlocked chains around the gates with bolt cutters.

The City’s executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said the City’s Fire and Rescue Service had responded to a complaint about the gates but had found residents were still able to move in and out easily enough.

Ms Matthee said Communicare Tenants Beneficiaries had never approached Communicare to resolve its concerns. 

Northern News visited the 88-flat Albatross complex on Friday May 8 and spoke to one of the 11 facing eviction. She did not want her name published as she said she feared victimisation from Communicare, but she said she had been living with her mother in another flat for 11 years and had moved into a vacant flat in August. Asked if she had a lease, she said: “No, I moved in illegally because the flat has been vacant for almost a year.” She said she paid R1350 rent each month. However, Mr Petersen said the 11 weren’t paying rent but rather a monthly amount that was going into a “tenants’ legal fund” to cover legal fees.

Ms Matthee said several flats were vacant, either waiting for new tenants to move in or to undergo repairs. 

The woman we spoke to said her mother was also being evicted by Communicare after the people she had been sub-letting her three-bedroom flat to had failed to pay her and she had been unable to come up with her R8000 rent.

Those facing eviction claim that in September last year Communicare security guards broke down the doors of the flats  they were occupying and disconnected the water and electricity. They say they opened a case at the Pinelands police station but weren’t given a case number. 

Ms Matthee denied the allegations. Communicare’s investigation, she said, had established that the occupants’ water and electricity had never been cut, and Communicare had acted within the law to remove those whom she claimed had criminally and violently gained illegal occupation. 

“Only the court may evict someone; no landlord in his own capacity may carry out an eviction. These people violently forced entry into vacant units assisted by certain legal tenants,” she said.

She accused Mr Petersen of aiding and abetting illegal occupants. “We have a zero tolerance against unlawful conduct,” she said. “We are now waiting for the law to run its cause”.

Lieutenant Colonel Anton van der Berg, of Pinelands police station, confirmed that Communicare had, in August last year, opened a case of burglary with the intent to trespass pertaining to several flats at the Albatross complex.