Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said he received many calls from Hangberg residents who were “very upset” about a High Court ruling ordering the City to rebuild a house it had demolished in the area.
Plato and his team were briefing the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the City’s human settlements policy.
In the court ruling, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe ordered the City to immediately rebuild Ginola Phillips’ demolished house to the same size and dimensions it was, describing the City’s conduct as “deplorable, grotesque and without care for human dignity”.
News24 reported that the City was considering its options because the order to rebuild the single illegal Wendy house jeopardised the construction of a “valuable community facility”, which included a five-a-side soccer pitch.
A group called the Community of Hangberg, brought the application as the first applicant, with Phillips as the second, in response to the City of Cape Town’s dismantling of Phillips’ home in Hangberg, Hout Bay, twice in June. The City of Cape Town was the first respondent and Plato was the second.
“Mayor, I want to ask you, how do you feel after losing the court case?” EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi asked.
“Most of the time, you run to the court, most of the time you win. This time you lost.”
She said they knew very well that the poorest of the poor couldn’t afford to defend themselves in court.
“Yes, it was negative for the City,” Plato responded. He added that they offered Phillips alternative sites on two occasions, but that he refused.
He told the committee he received lots of calls from residents “very upset” with the ruling because they were looking forward to the services that would have been provided through the City’s use of the site.
One house was stopping the development of the site, he pointed out.
“Many people abuse the lockdown measures,” he said. “They abuse the regulations for their own interests.”
Mkhaliphi also asked if he tried to contact Bulelani Qolani, a man who was dragged out of his house naked by City law enforcement officials in Khayelitsha.
Plato said he tried to and asked community organisations in Khayelitsha to help him track the man down.
“But I got the sense he doesn’t want to talk to me,” Plato said.
“We are not heartless,” Plato said. “We are not excited about evictions.”
He said if the City didn’t protect its land, it would not be able to develop brick and mortar houses.
Mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi said they hadn’t carried out any form of evictions. He said there was a difference between evictions and illegal occupations.