More than 600 people will be homeless if the city of Johannesburg succeeds in evicting them from the San Jose block in Berea.
The towering 16-storey building on the corner of Olivia and Lily Street is one of many inner-city buildings the municipality wants to vacate, renovate and rent to paying customers.
The dispute has been taken to the constitutional court because illegal occupiers say they will not allow the municipality to uproot them from their homes.
They say the government wants to settle them in dangerous shacklands and that they prefer the devil they know.
Their unkempt building is engulfed in dirt and water streams from the only communal tap outside in the grimy yard.
San Jose is perched on top of a hill and towers over neighbouring buildings. Nothing but its lofty perch would attract a passerby to the run-down building.
Filth spatters the outside walls and refuse clutters the yard. Newspapers. and dingy, discoloured curtains cover the broken windows. Clothes droop from window washing lines where curtains once hung.
A stench assails the visitor at the gate from blocked toilets that will never be flushed until the building's water is restored.
"We do not want to be moved to shacks. It is dangerous there. Here it is better because we have brick walls and our jobs are just around the corner," says Nelson Khethani chairman of the building committee.