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COVID-19 Archives | Eviction Lawyers South Africa

Emalahleni Local Municipality receives two days to reply to SAHRC

By | Eviction news, Evictions

Over 100 houses were demolished, with about 96 residents who currently live in an open area, declared homeless after the eviction operations.

Emalahleni Municipality involved in illegal evictions

The provincial office of the Human Rights Commission, in Mpumalanga, gave Emalahleni Local Municipality two days to respond to an urgent email regarding the “complaints relating to eviction operations without a court order.”

In a letter seen by the WITBANK NEWS, the commission indicated that the assessed complaint, the affected resident’s right to have access to housing, particularly their right not be evicted without a court order enshrined in section 26(3) of the constitution were “prima facie violation.”

“Given the urgency of the matter and the level 3 lockdown COVID-19 regulations on evictions, please let us have your response to the above allegations at your nearest convenience and in any event by no later than 24 June 2020,” the letter reads.

Over 100 houses were demolished, with about 96 residents who currently live in an open area declared homeless after the eviction operations.

Branch leader of the settlement from the South African National Civic Organization (SANCO), Mr Sbusiso Ndlovu said he was pleased by the response of the commission.

“As SANCO leadership from Ward 23, we are pleased by the information from the SARHC to investigate the matter in Empumelelweni. It is high time that people take accountability for their actions, human dignity as enshrined in the constitution has been compromised, people have been greatly exposed to COVID-19 by this whole situation and lastly, we will be happy if the municipality can engage SANCO about the land to be allocated and other matters alike to avoid similar occurrences,” said Ndlovu.

Reprinted from Witbank News – 2020-06-30

Links added by SD Law.

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers, based in Cape Town and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or want to know the cost of eviction.

Further reading:

Hungry or evicted: Life for migrant women in Johannesburg’s ‘dark buildings’

By | Electricity, Eviction news, Evictions

The government declared evictions illegal during lockdown levels 5, 4 and 3. But what happens when the landlord is already operating outside the law? We were sad to read the story of these women in Johannesburg.

Reprinted from Dispatch Live. By Reuters and Kim Harrisberg2020-06-28

During the prolonged Covid-19 lockdown, refugee and migrant women living in Johannesburg are often faced with a choice between being able to feed their families or keep a roof over their heads.

During the prolonged Covid-19 lockdown, refugee and migrant women living in Johannesburg are often faced with a choice between being able to feed their families or keep a roof over their heads.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVE

When Cynthia fled Zimbabwe as a refugee, she dreamed of a safe, clean house in neighbouring South Africa where she could start a new life.

But seven years later she is one of hundreds of single Zimbabwean women living in Johannesburg’s notorious “dark buildings” — crowded but cheap accommodation in derelict properties that were illegally seized by rogue landlords.

Like many of the refugee and migrant women living there, she lost her job as a domestic worker during South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown, forcing her to choose between buying food or paying rent.

“The lockdown has been very painful for these women,” said Ethel Musonza, 50, who founded Zimbabwe Isolated Women in South Africa (ZIWISA), a group that connects the women over WhatsApp for help with food, rent and emotional support.

“Landlords want to evict them if they are unable to pay (rent),” she said, adjusting her facemask as she walked towards a dark building in the rundown Doornfontein suburb in Johannesburg, where a number of ZIWISA members are based.

“Sometimes only one child can eat and not another,” Musonza told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that the group ZIWISA supports has doubled in size to 2,000 WhatsApp members in several provinces since lockdown began in March.

The municipal government of Johannesburg estimates that more than 1,470 properties in the city have been taken over by people pretending to be the rightful owners.

They rent out single rooms for about R600 a month to up to six tenants at once and cut off electricity when the room is not paid for, said Lucky Sindane, a spokesperson for the city’s anti-fraud and corruption unit.

Some buildings have no electricity at all, and this darkness combined with “experiences of misfortune” have inspired the name “dark buildings”, according to South African academic Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon.

Inside a small room shared with four other people, with a curtain as a door, Cynthia sat on her bed.

“I want to live a better life … in a place I feel safe,” said Cynthia, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

“But until then I have ZIWISA, which supports us to stand strong during lockdown,” said the 32-year-old, adding that the organisation has helped her and others to leave abusive partners.

FOOD AID

In a basement parking lot in Doornfontein, Musonza was guiding a calm queue of women towards a table so they could tick off their names and collect their food parcels.

During lockdown, which the country began easing out of on June 1, Musonza has been working with South African charity Participate Empower Navigate (PEN) to co-ordinate food aid for hundreds of ZIWISA members living in illegal accommodation under lockdown.

Musonza herself moved to South Africa from Zimbabwe in 1998. Since then she has been a domestic worker and begged on Johannesburg’s streets.

Now she makes ends meet through selling food on the street, but most of her time is dedicated to volunteering full-time for ZIWISA, which she started in 2009.

The ZIWISA WhatsApp group, the main avenue of communication between the women, pings constantly in her pocket as members message her for assistance.

“Many of the women turn towards sex work out of desperation,” said Musonza, adding that by pooling their money the members have helped pay rent for 10 women in dark buildings and saved them from evictions during lockdown.

South Africa’s most recent census figures from 2011 show that more than 3% of the population is made up of “non-South African citizens”.

But estimates vary widely and researchers say it is difficult to collect reliable numbers.

Many of those living in Johannesburg’s inner city are from Zimbabwe, said Musonza, a country where aid groups warn millions face growing levels of hunger due to recurring drought, widespread floods, lost harvests and an economic crisis.

ZIWISA members are a mix of women who have managed to get work permits, others with refugee status and some who have crossed the border illegally, so they have no papers at all, said Musonza.

“I have felt stuck and lonely,” said Siyabonga (whose name was also changed), 48, a single mother-of-three standing in the food parcel queue in the basement parking lot.

During the lockdown, a friend added her to ZIWISA’s WhatsApp group to connect with other women in a similar situation, many who she says now call to check up on her every few days.

“ZIWISA has helped me find a counsellor, get food and feel like I have a home and a family,” she said, as she ticked off her name and collected her food parcel.

DARKNESS

Sheila, 30, lives in a room with her three children in one of Doornfontein’s dark buildings, where wires suspended from the ceilings hold makeshift curtain dividers so they can each have their privacy.

The entire building, which sometimes houses up to 700 people, shares a single toilet, so everyone queues in the morning to use it, she said.

Sheila, who asked not to use her real name, begs on the street for money and struggled to earn enough for rent during the lockdown, as the army patrolled the streets to make sure people stayed indoors.

Only able to pay part of her R600 rent, her electricity was cut off by her landlord during lockdown, plunging her into darkness.

“The hijackers of these buildings are the criminals,” said city spokesperson Sindane, adding that the corruption unit is currently researching hijacked properties.

“There are some criminals like drug dealers who live there, but many are just desperate, innocent people. It is a sad and complicated situation,” said Sindane, who works to return the properties to their original owners.

Sometimes the owners of the dark buildings have left the country, or they are in South Africa but unable or afraid to take back the properties from their illegal occupiers, he explained.

Sindane noted that tenants are only made to leave the property if the legal owner gets a court order for eviction.

“We try to encourage property owners to consider the people living in the building, to try to renovate the property and enter in a new lease agreement with current tenants,” he said.

This does not always happen, said Musonza, who has been evicted from four different dark buildings by owners with eviction orders. But despite the stigma of criminality and danger that they carry, “the dark buildings provide”, she said.

“It is cheap and better than living on the streets. It gives us shelter,” she added, as she walked through a dimly lit passageway in one of the buildings, checking her WhatsApp messages as her phone pinged relentlessly.

“I need to remind these women that despite where they live, they are strong.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covering the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers, based in Cape Town and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or want to know the cost of eviction.

Lockdown Level 3: This is what you can & cannot do

By | COVID 19, Evictions

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Thursday released the regulations governing lockdown Level 3, which gets under way on 1 June

She said the entire country will move to Level 3, regardless of whether it is a Covid-19 hotspot. She added, though, that additional restrictions may apply for districts with a high level of infections.

Level 3 regulations permit the sale of liquor between Monday and Thursday, from 09:00 and 17:00, but tobacco sales remain prohibited.

Dlamini-Zuma said, as the economy reopens, practising hygiene measures, such as hand washing and maintaining a safe social distance, will be “most important” to fight Covid-19 – in absence of a cure or vaccine.

Here’s everything you will be allowed to do, and what you won’t, when Level 3 commences on 1 June:

You will be allowed to buy liquor

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said alcohol consumption will be allowed from Mondays to Thursdays between 09:00 and 17:00. Liquor deliveries through e-commerce will be allowed, but no on-site consumption of alcohol at outlets will be allowed.

You must always wear a cloth mask

Dlamini-Zuma said anyone who enters a work, public space or public transport must wear a cloth face mask or homemade item that covers the nose and mouth. Anyone who exercises outside also has to wear a cloth mask the entire time, she said.

You may NOT have social gatherings, or visit friends or family

Dlamini-Zuma said all gatherings remain prohibited, unless they are a church gathering, or an agricultural auction.

People will still be encouraged to stay at home, and will not be allowed to visit friends or family.

You may NOT travel across provincial boundaries, unless you have permission

Dlamini-Zuma said experiences in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo showed that interprovincial travel contributed to community transmissions, which is why it remains prohibited.

She said movement will be limited across provinces, metropolitan areas, districts and hotspots, except for people travelling to start work, moving to new residences, or to care for an immediate family member. People travelling will, however, require relevant permits.

She said pupils, students or teachers, who have to return to school, will be allowed to travel between provinces.

Dlamini-Zuma said movement between districts and localities will be permitted in areas that are not Covid-19 hotspots, This, however, will only be to travel to work, or to buy or obtain available goods, services and medical attention.

You may travel for funerals

Dlamini-Zuma said interprovincial travel for funerals will be allowed as long as they are close family members.

Those permitted to travel for funerals

  • Legal spouses or partners of the deceased
  • Children or grandchildren of the deceased, whether biological, adopted or stepchildren
  • Children-in-law of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased, whether biological, adopted or step-parents
  • Siblings, whether biological, adopted or step-brothers or sisters of the deceased
  • And/or grandparents of the deceased.

Dlamini-Zuma said station commanders of all police stations are charged with the duty to keep meticulous records with regard to funerals and the number of attendees.

Domestic workers may return to work

Dlamini-Zuma said domestic workers will be allowed to return to work under Level 3.

You will be allowed to exercise for longer hours

Dlamini-Zuma said people will be allowed to exercise between 06:00 and 18:00 as long as it is not done in organised groups. People will have to adhere to health protocols and social distancing measures during this time.

She said public training, fitness and recreation facilities remain closed, except those conducting non-contact sports matches, without spectators.

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said further clarity around whether beaches will be reopened, or surfing permitted, will be addressed by the Arts and Culture Minister at a later stage.

Workplace gatherings will be allowed

Workplace gatherings for work purposes will be permitted under strict conditions and the observance of health, hygiene and social distancing protocols, Dlamini-Zuma said.

She said employers have to ensure the 1,5 metres distance is maintained among employees, and that a limit on the number of people in the workplace be applied.

You may NOT go to bars, cinemas or restaurants

Dlamini-Zuma said restaurants, shebeens, taverns, night clubs, bars, cinemas, theatres, fêtes, bazaars; casinos and similar places remain closed.

You may go to hotels under strict conditions

Dlamini-Zuma said hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses remain closed, except those accommodating confined tourists, people lodging for work purposes, and persons in quarantine or isolation.

You may go to places of worship, such as churches and mosques

Dlamini-Zuma said religious counselling has been declared an essential service, and religious gatherings, such as church services, will be permitted as long as there are fewer than 50 people attending.

She said places of worship will have to maintain a 1,5 metre social distance between congregants, masks have to be worn at all times, and hands have to be washed.

She said places of worship must screen all participants attending, and must be regularly sanitised.

Dlamini-Zuma encouraged those above 60 not to attend worship services as they are at high-risk.

You may fly under strict conditions, and international travel remains limited

Dlamini-Zuma said limited domestic air travel will be permitted to allow employees to travel. She said a date for the reopening of domestic air travel will be made by the Minister of Transport.

Dlamini-Zuma said the country’s international ports remain closed, unless for the transportation of fuel cargo and goods, and for humanitarian operations, repatriations, evacuations, medical emergencies, and movements for diplomatic and international organisations.

You will be allowed to collect your food and go to a drive-through

Patel said the sale of hot food will again be permitted, but this will be for pick-up only. It means that people will also be allowed to collect food at fast food outlets, and that drive-throughs will reopen.

You may NOT be evicted

Dlamini-Zuma said because the country “cannot afford” any more of the vulnerable on the streets, evictions of tenants remain prohibited.

She did, however, add that, because rental income is also an important livelihood stream for some, a competent court may grant an eviction order, provided it is just and equitable.

You may NOT buy cigarettes

Dlamini-Zuma said the sale of tobacco, tobacco products, e-cigarettes and related products remain prohibited, except when it is destined for the export market.

You will likely be allowed to return to work

Patel said most sectors of the economy will reopen under Level 3, with a limited number of industries remaining closed as they pose a risk to the spread of Covid-19.

You may buy almost anything

Patel said all retail sales will reopen, including for household appliances and clothing sales, unless indicated – such as tobacco sales.

Source: All4Women (emphasis by SD Law*)
SD Law is a law firm of Cape Town and Johannesburg attorneys. If you need any help interpreting the laws of lockdown please contact us on 086 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.