Ms Strong loses fight against eviction

Beverly Strong who was diagnosed with colon cancer, told the Bulletin she goes for chemotherapy every week to a doctor just up the road from where she lives.

Beverly Strong, the deputy chairperson of the Naruna Estate Residents’ Association (NERA), will be evicted by November 29, from her state-owned home, following a court judgment.

Ms Strong was first served with an eviction notice in August last year. It told her she was R28 000 in arrears and gave her two weeks to move out of her Naruna Estate home in Plumstead (“Evictee speaks out,” Bulletin, June 20 ).

But the eviction was put on hold while Ms Strong took her case to the Rental Housing Tribunal.

At the tribunal’s informal mediation process, Ms Strong was given the option to move to Pelican Park or sign a new three-year fixed-term lease that the Department of Human Settlements, which owns Naruna Estate, had introduced.

She refused both options, saying there was little to no infrastructure in Pelican Park and signing the lease would not give her security of tenure, as she did not know if she would be evicted after the three years. Her case was referred to a state attorney by the department.

The process was delayed further as Ms Strong was hospitalised after being diagnosed with colon cancer in July.

At the end of September, a magistrate at the Rental Housing Tribunal ruled that she should be evicted as she was in arrears, had refused to sign the new lease or move to Pelican Park and had been involved in a protest to stop Plumstead residents attending a public meeting in 2015.

Ms Strong accused Human Settlements of targeting her because of the protest. She said she had been one of several residents who had protested against the department’s decision to bring in the new leases and they hadn’t tried to stop anyone from going to the meeting.

“It was a public meeting here at Plumstead Primary announcing the new leases and many of us, as the residents stood across the road, carrying placards that said ‘no decisions about us without us’. That was it. We didn’t stop anyone from going in. We just wanted public participation when it comes to our community,” she said.

Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers said the conversion to the fixed term leases had been done in line with the requirements of the Rental Housing Act and Consumer Protection Act.

There was a renewal clause in the lease that stated that the owner of the property, to protect their rights, reserved the discretionary decision to extend the lease, he said.

The department, as landlord, had been carrying huge losses due to the low rental income and high running costs.

“It is becoming imperative for the department to exercise fiscal discipline to ensure that the rental stock is managed on a sustainable basis. The department held various engagements with the tenants regarding rental and leases and this was not well received. Tenants who are not able to afford the rental have been offered alternative accommodation options,” said Mr Simmers.

Ms Strong has called the court judgment unfair, saying it had not considered her ill health.

“I’ve had half of my colon removed. I’m going in for chemo every week. I’m sick. My doctor is up the road, the hospital is up the road, what will happen when I’m moved all the way to the outskirts?”

She added: “The Rental Housing Tribunal carry way too much power.They basically have the powers of the magistrate’s court. That’s what I’ve learnt from these processes.”

She said that she had noticed from attending many meetings about the housing crisis in Cape Town with various social justice groups, such as Ndifuna Ukwazi, that many people were in the same boat as she was.

She is prepared to take her case to the High Court but said she would need a pro-bono lawyer to do so.

“Once they rule against you, you have no choice but to appeal at the high court, and, honestly who can afford that? There’s only so many lawyers who offer pro-bono services.”

Ms Strong said she was helpless and was looking at other ways to stay in her home.

She is fostering two of her grandchildren who go to schools in Plumstead.

She said she would not be able to afford transport money to travel back and forth should she keep the children in the same schools.

Mr Simmers said the action against Ms Strong had nothing to do with her stance on gentrification and was not a personal attack.

“The action is based on non-compliance with the lease and nothing to do with so-called ‘gentrification’ of the area. That would be an example of an irrational/ frivolous decision,” he said.

Karen Saligee, chairperson of NERA, said many other residents in the area were just as behind in their rent as Ms Strong but they had not been targeted.

Ms Saligee accused the DA-run City leadership of trying to gentrify Cape Town by moving the poor to the outskirts.

“In the rental policy, it states that if you earn less than R3 500 you have to move to Pelican Park. How is that fair? What they’re basically saying is that this place is too nice for you poor people to live here.” said Ms Saligee.