Scottsville evictions loom

SOYISO MALITI

Four families, including a disabled woman and her two grandchildren, are facing eviction from La Lucia Court in Scottsville.

The City says the families are living illegally in the council-owned flats but community activists are helping the residents fight the evictions.

Monica Isaacs, 50, claims Pauline and John Carelse, a married couple who raised her as they didn’t have children of their own, had wanted her to have their flat.

Ms Isaacs said when Mr Carelse died in 2013, his wife’s health deteriorated and they had tried to go through the proper channels and have the flat transferred into Ms Isaacs name but without success. Ms Carelse died on March 6 last year.

Ms Isaacs received a letter of eviction in February and was meant to have moved out of the flat by March 15.

Ms Isaacs, who needs a walking stick to get around the flat on the second floor, said she was left trying to explain to her five-year-old grandchild, who had asked where they would go, moments after a City official delivered the letter of eviction.

Ms Isaacs held back tears as she recounted her struggle to get a home of her own.

“My first time of registering on (the housing waiting list) was in 1994,” she said.

Ms Isaacs added, “In 2010, I went to the office to try to find out how far along I had been, only to find out my name was no longer there,” she said, adding that she then re-registered.

During this time, she had been living with the Carelses to take care of their needs during weekdays, and would go home to her working children in her bungalow in Willie Street over the weekends.

Ms Isaacs claims she has been paying rent as a backyarder since 1994, and has lived in over 30 bungalows because she has not been able to find a permanent residence.

Her health is deteriorating and doctors have told her that spinal issues could leave her paralysed.

Scottsdene Regruk Aksie, an activist group, said its members reported that over 50 residents face a similar dilemma in the various flats in the area.

Referring to Ms Isaac’s case, Dennis Taaibosch, the group’s co-ordinator, asked: “What do you expect a disabled woman to do? Where should she go?”

He said the group would try to stop the eviction process, including filing a formal complaint to the Public Protector’s office, South African Human Rights Commission and the ANC.

Explaining why they involved the ANC, Mr Taaibosch said ANC officials were “on the ground”.

“We’re not doing this for political points. We will mobilise the whole community,” he said.

One community leader, who did not want her name to be printed, said: “Eventually they will have to give these people houses anyway, so why evict them?”

The activists approached ANC members proportional representative councillor, Gert Moolman, and Charlton Pepper.

Mr Pepper said the community had been “submissive for far too long” towards the DA-led municipality. Mr Pepper warned the DA that the community would “no longer take everything lying down”.

The City said a number of unlawful occupants, including Ms Isaacs, in Scottsdene’s rental units had been served with 30-day notice letters to vacate the units.

Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s Mayoral committee member for human settlements, said all the families were aware their occupation of the units is illegal.

Ms Van Minnen said the families had been interviewed by City officials when the unlawful occupation policy was explained to them.

“The occupants were given time to move out before the City started the process to take action. To date, none of the families served with notices have made any attempt to move out,” she said.

With regards to Ms Isaacs, Ms Van Minnen said, the registered tenant, Pauline Carelse, passed away on March 6 last year, with Ms Isaacs moving into the rental unit on December 31 in 2013. However, Ms Isaacs claims she moved into the flat in 2010 when Mr Carelse died.

Ms Van Minnen added: “During a house visit conducted by City officials, it was found that two more of her family members had moved into the dwelling.”

She said Ms Isaacs is regarded as an unlawful occupant as she lived in the flat after the tenant died.

Furthermore, she was not a member of the original household, Ms Van Minnen said.

“The City’s policy provides for an unlawful occupant to be considered for normalisation if they can show proof of stay prior to 1 March 2006.

“The City has to be mindful of the thousands of residents on the database awaiting housing opportunities and cannot support queue-jumping.

“If Ms Isaacs and her family refuse to vacate the dwelling by the stipulated date, a legal process to obtain an eviction order will follow,” she said.