KNYSNA NEWS - Two families in Old Place quickly got evicted from their would-be "home" on the municipal grounds in Bokmakierie Street earlier this week.
On October 17, Isak Holtzhausen and his family were among the squatters evicted by municipal law enforcement from the piece of open ground next to Yellowwood flats – after moving there 72 hours earlier.
Holtzhausen, who has been staying in Knysna for the past 22 years, became homeless after he was asked to leave the flat in town that he and his family had been living in, due to the flat's overseas owners returning to Knysna for the holidays.
The other squatter family received the same treatment a day earlier. Koos Labuchagne’s temporary house was demolished on October 16 by municipal law enforcement after he resided there for 48 hours.
“I earn R10 000 monthly and my rent was so high that unless I worked overtime and every weekend I could never afford to take care of my family and my sick dad, which is why we decided to squat,” said Labuchagne.
Meanwhile Holtzhausen, having exhausted all his options in finding a new place to stay, decided to buy a caravan and squat.
“I stay with my wife, mother-in-law and my 21-year-old son. I earn R8 000 a month and I am the only person who is working in the house, I cannot afford the rent in this town,” Holtzhausen said.
When he learnt that the owners needed their flat for the holiday season, he started looking for alternative accommodation in town, but soon realised that he could not afford the high rental prices.
“I went to the municipality’s offices seeking assistance and was referred to housing department, where a young black lady assisted me. I told her I wanted to put my name down on the housing list [for an RDP home], but she told me that I can’t and when I asked her what the reason was she said, ‘because you’re white’.
No RDP housing for whites
"She further explained that not only am I white, but I earn too much and do not qualify for an RDP house, even though I cannot afford to pay rent."
He said the government recognises him as middle class, albeit lower middle class.
Holtzhausen then asked this same municipal worker where he could rent a piece of ground to build his own place or squat and again she said, "You can’t squat, you’re white".
The obviously emotional Holtzhausen, who is a sales representative for Sawman in the industrial area, said, “I have been working for this town for 22 years and it boils down to my skin colour. It’s got nothing to do with my skin colour.”
In his desperate search for a place to stay he said he spoke to the former mayor, Georlene Wolmarans who, according to him, was most helpful and accommodating and referred him to a man two doors from the mayor's office to put his name down for a serviced plot, where water, electricity and sewerage are available.
“When I got there the white man who assisted me told me that such a list does not exist and that the former mayor doesn’t know that she is talking about.”
Caravan plan fails
When the hard reality hit Holtzhausen that he could not afford to pay the rent, his boss lent him money to buy a caravan, which he thought would be a solution.
Holtzhausen said he has been trying to make an appointment with the current mayor Eleanore-Bouw Spies and called her office several times, but was told that she will only be available in three months' time.
“I’m just one of the citizens trying to make a living, trying to better the situation from where I started,” continued the 49-year-old. “I have a caravan that I got for R12 000 and a car that is probably worth the same amount, and that is all I have to show for my life’s work.”
Nowhere to live with children or pets
He said that although he understands why the government provides housing for disadvantaged people, he often wonders why it cannot do the same for him and people in similar predicaments.
“Getting accommodation in Knysna is not only expensive but impossible if you have pets or children. Must I kill my dogs, my son and most probably my mother-in-law too? Even if it was just me and my wife, I would still struggle to pay rent,” said Holtzhausen.
Holtzhausen has had to move his caravan to his workplace in the industrial area in the meantime, and Labuschagne is relying on a flat he can stay in only for days and then he has nowhere to go.
Cavaran parks have a "no dogs allowed" policy, and do not accommodate people for an entire month.
Monks Holiday Chalets and Caravan Park situated at the corner of Main Road and Holiday Park Crescent, Costa Sarda charges R100 per person per night.
Buffalo Bay Caravan Park, which is off the N2 on Walker Drive, charges R200 for the first two people per night and R100 for additional people per night.
The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act No 19 of 1998 (the PIE Act), governs the eviction process. It provides procedures for eviction of unlawful occupants and prohibits unlawful evictions.
Every tenant is covered by this act, including illegal squatters.
The PIE Act is very detailed, but in essence a squatter can be evicted swiftly, without any formal proceedings, if this is done within a short period after his/her occupation of land.
However, if an unlawful occupier has occupied the land in question for more than six months, a landowner has to institute court proceedings for relief, which may or may not be granted depending on the individual specific circumstances.
The caravan Isak Holtzhausen and his family were planning to make their new home.
What is left of Isak Holtzhausen's son room after municipal law enforcement demolished the structure at the Bokmakierrie municipal grounds. Photos: Nwabisa Pondoyi
Isak Holtzhausen stands where his temporary house was before he got evicted.
ARTICLE AND POTOS: NWABISA PONDOYI, KNYSNA-PLETT HERALD JOURNALIST
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