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Observatory tent dwellers win anti-eviction case

Reprinted from the Cape Argus, by Sisonke Mlamla – 2020-10-08

The City has been prohibited from interfering with the tent dwellers living on the pavement in Observatory in front of Arcadia Place. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus
Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

Cape Town – The City has been prohibited from interfering with the tent dwellers living on the pavement in Observatory in front of Arcadia Place, a building opposite Pick n Pay and KFC.

The group of occupiers, calling themselves Singabalapha (We Belong Here), won an anti-eviction case in the Cape High Court against the City on Tuesday, where the City was ordered to refrain from confiscating personal property and belongings.

The court ordered the City to also refrain from harassing or abusing the residents of Singabalapha and evicting them without an order of court.

The judgment stated that it was clear that the action of the City against the residents took place over a period, and to make matters worse, the action took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, under a State of Disaster.“

During this period, for obvious reasons, evictions were initially prohibited, but later, particularly during the May operations, courts were allowed to issue eviction orders, but such orders were stayed and suspended until the last day of alert level 4, which was applicable at the time.”

Safety and security executive director Richard Bosman said the City had received the judgment and had noted it. “The matter is receiving attention and consideration.”

Singabalapha chairperson Barbara Vuza said the past year had been hell. Not just because of Covid-19, but also because their struggle against the unjust eviction from Arcadia Place, an old-age home, exactly one year ago had forced them on to the streets, where they had to build their homes on the grass and live in constant fear of harassment and victimisation at the hands of the City’s Law Enforcement.

Vuza said they stood strong against the odds, despite the government’s refusal to provide them with basic services like water, electricity, and ablution facilities.

One of the occupiers, Sinazo Jordan, said the court came to the decision that the City could not use its by-laws to circumvent the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.

Jordan said that in the judgment, Acting Judge Selwyn Hockey noted that their advocate, Zeynab Titus, “correctly argue(s) that the City is using the street by-laws as a quick fix to persistently harass the residents so they will eventually succumb to the pressure and vacate the settlement”.

Their legal representative, Lucien Lewin, said he was extremely satisfied with the judgment granted.

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