Hout Bay Settlement , 29 March 2008 – Evictions Loom

Evictions Continue in Hout Bay
A Report for Abahlali baseMjondolo
by Kerry Chance

CAPE TOWN – March 31, 2008 – The eviction of eight families, 25 adults and 15 children living in shacks and brick houses along the beach in Hangberg, Hout Bay was scheduled for today. The eviction was lodged by South African Sea Products, a subsidiary fishing company owned by several corporations including Tiger Brand Foods, Ltd. Hangberg residents, working with a community organization called Solution Seekers, successfully secured a temporary interdict. They will challenge the eviction order in the Wynberg courts on April 17.

Most of the eight families are supported by state grants, some for child-headed households and others for disability. Residents note that the latter resulted from work-related injuries, sustained on the fishing company’s ships.

Forty families in Hangberg were evicted last year by South African Sea Products from “hostel buildings,” a compound built by the fishing company, which has since been demolished. In October 2007, these eight additional families received hand-delivered letters from the company demanding that they vacate the land immediately. The letters further stated that if they refused to do so, the matter would be taken to court “the cost of which will be claimed from you.”

In February 2008, after the eight families refused to move, the company obtained court-ordered eviction notices. These reportedly were faulty in numerous ways: the notices misidentified some of the occupants and were issued in just two official languages, English and Xhosa, though residents are predominantly Afrikaans and Zulu speakers.

Additionally, some of the structures marked for eviction are only partly situated on land owned by South African Sea Products. In a previous press statement issued by the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in January 2008, with regard to the hostel buildings, “The community is angered and intends to resist the forced removal because they say that some of the land belongs to the City [of Cape Town] and not to South African Sea Products, so the company does not have the right to evict them.”

Thus far, the eight families faced with eviction have not been informed about where they would be moved, if South African Sea Products is successful in court. Though the company offered no explanation for why the eviction was ordered, residents said that it seeks to relocate its corporate headquarters to the land currently occupied by the families.

The area is described by residents as a “company town,” where many are employed – either full-time or as casual workers – by South African Sea Products, while living on land or in structures that the company owns. The forty families who were evicted last year from the hostel buildings were moved to “low cost” houses purchased by the fishing company in Mitchell’s Plain, about forty kilometres away from Hout Bay on the Cape Flats.

According to residents, the fishing company agreed to provide housing subsidies to the forty families, estimated at R63,000, with the additional cost of the houses, an estimated R120,000, offered to them in the form of a loan. South African Sea Products now is deducting a reported R100 per month from the wages of employees living in the houses for repayment of the loan. Some of these families have since returned to Hout Bay in Mandela Park, after finding that transport to work was unaffordable from Mitchell’s Plain.

Residents seek to overturn the eviction order in court, and prevent any further forced relocation from the land in the future.