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Tuesday Aug 07, 2012

Historic Woodstock properties demolished

After living in a rented Woodstock house for 56 years, a 78-year-old pensioner was thrown out on to the street with his nine descendants in a move that reminded him of the District Six evictions he witnessed as a young man.

Matthew Meissenheimer, 78, looks at the remains in Cornwall Street that he lived in for 56 years.

His was one of five families evicted from houses in Woodstock's Cornwall Street this week after the buildings were condemned and an eviction order granted by the court in 2009. The Sheriff of the court served the eviction order to the families last Tuesday and heavy machinery arrived at the scene on Wednesday and started demolishing the 100year-old double-storey semidetached Victorian houses.

Matthew Meisenheimer, 78, who lived in number 18 with three daughters, two grandchildren and three greatgrandchildren, put their furniture and belongings on the pavement. Residents watched in disbelief as digger-loaders levelled houses they had lived in for generations.

Meisenheimer recalled that he had come to stay in number 18 Cornwall Street in 1956 and said what he saw happening "reminded me of what happened in District Six".

His eldest son, Stanley Meisenheimer, a 47-year-old father of three, lived in one of the other houses being demolished on the street.

Stanley Meisenheimer said he had no words to describe the anger he felt at seeing the homes people grew up in being levelled.

He said the demolitions meant the family would split up, finding temporary accommodation on the Cape Flats.

The building belonged to Fatima Gabie who in 2008 appointed Herold Gie Attorneys to apply for an eviction court order after efforts to get the families out had failed and the City Building Inspectorate had found Gabie's property unsafe for human occupation due to its dilapidated state.

Herold Gie director Jeremy de Klerck said the five families were in arrears amounting to R35 000 and had not paid their water and electricity bills.

He said when the matter was brought to his law firm in 2008, they had sent "several notices" to the families.

He said even though an agreement was reached with the parties involved that they would vacate the property without paying the monies owed, they failed to do so.

"In 2009 they were given a few months to vacate the building - they refused to do so. They physically signed the agreement," said De Klerck

He said summons had been served on the families and the matter had been heard in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court with the respondents having full legal presentation at court.

"They used their legal representation to argue that the property be classified as a heritage building but when the building was inspected by the SA Heritage Foundation it was found the building was not fit to be a heritage building."

The court granted his client an eviction order in 2009 and the families requested six months' grace to look for alternative accommodation.

"At the beginning of July we returned to court to ensure the occupants' rights were respected. The magistrate reaffirmed the 2009 eviction orders," he said.

Cape Times

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