Housing upset takes to streets

Firefighters putting out the flames.

Angry residents of Steenvilla in Steenberg burnt tyres on Monday, July 24, to show their frustration about the way in which the sheriff arrived to evict people.

Military Road had to be closed off and firefighters put out the flames as residents blocked the entrance to the complex.

Tina Schoor, a Steenvilla resident, said they had been provoked.

“The sheriff was here with a whole tactical force and armed responses. We are not a violent community. What caused us to react in this way was when the Sheriff brought in the guns with the intention to evict the people from their homes. I have sent my demands to Parliament as we as the community are not going to allow anyone to evict our people. My demands are that the Western Cape Government either allocate the homes to these people and give them their homes or they must allocate our people land so that we can move on to our land and build our homes” said Ms Schoor.

Steenvilla resident Hendry Hendricks is furious with the way the situation was handled.

“All I saw was guns. I went out to the sheriff and asked why he is bringing in all these guns?

“The guns are what aggravated the people and that is what caused the people to react in such a manner besides the evictions,” said Mr Hendricks.

Another resident, who did not want to be named, complained about poor living conditions. “My unit is green and black because of the mould and the walls also have cracks in them. Our requests are being ignored and nothing was done with regards to fixing our units but our rent keeps increasing.”

Heather Maxwell, chief executive officer, for Sohco Property Investments NPC, which manages Steenvilla, said during March 2016 a small group of tenants stopped paying rent. “After attempts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful, Sohco initiated eviction proceedings in court during 2016, with eviction orders eventually being granted in March 2017 and May 2017.”

She said 22 evictions were planned by the Sheriff of the Court on Monday July 24. “The tenants being evicted haven’t paid rent for over 12 months, during which all other attempts to resolve the situation and avoid eviction proceedings were unsuccessful.”

However, Ms Maxwell said, “in response to a disturbance on site, the evictions have been postponed to a later date. “

Residents of Steenvilla Complex took a stand against Sohco management last year when Southern Mail covered a protest against evictions, the high cost of rent, maintenance, and electricity which they could “barely afford” (“Sohco housing upgroar”, March 2 2016).

Beryl Schouw, chairperson of Steenvilla Social Housing Action Group, said at the time that the residents were unhappy at the way Sohco management treated them and the high costs of maintenance. For example R100 for a light bulb and R100 for a door to be fixed.

The residents then took their gripes about the evictions to Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela. Mr Madikizela told Southern Mail
that there was an agreement made that Sohco would investigate each tenant’s case (“Sohco tenants take gripes to human settlements”, April 13 2016).