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High Court grants City of Cape Town final eviction order

By | Eviction news, Evictions, Homeless

Reprinted from News24, by Marvin Charles – 2024-02-15

The Western Cape High Court has granted a final eviction order in the City of Cape Town’s application to remove homeless people living around Culemborg in the Cape Town CBD.

These areas are in the vicinity of the Nelson Mandela Boulevard intersection with Hertzog Boulevard, Old Marine Drive, and Christiaan Barnard Bridge.

The order includes a standing interdict against any further unlawful occupation of these areas and other City-owned public spaces identified in the order.

In February last year, the court granted the City an interim order for eviction notices to be served at unlawful occupation hotspots along Buitengracht Street, FW de Klerk Boulevard, Foregate Square, Taxi Rank and Foreshore, Helen Suzman Boulevard, Strand Street, Foreshore/N1, Virginia Avenue and Mill Street Bridge.

Over the past few years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown, the number of destitute residents has increased.

The Cape Town CBD, specifically, has seen a sharp increase in people sleeping rough.

The High Court said the City should provide alternative accommodation at its Safe Spaces, and that those who intended taking up alternative accommodation should let the City know no later than 7 March.

It also ordered that the homeless people should vacate the property by 14 March.

“In the event that the respondents [the homeless] fail or refuse to vacate the affected areas of the property, the sheriff and person appointed by the police to the extent necessary, is authorised and directed to from 15 March 2024 to 15 June 2024 to eject the respondents from the affected areas of the property,” it ordered.

The court also authorised the demolishing and removal of structures unlawfully occupied by people should they refuse to vacate.

In a statement, the City said: “The final eviction order for the Culemborg area follows efforts over time by the City to offer social assistance and care interventions to those persons unlawfully occupying public spaces in the area, which is close to City-run Safe Space facilities offering dignified transitional shelter and social programmes to assist people off the streets sustainably.

“Safe Spaces aim to reintegrate people into society, and reunite them with family. Personal development planning and employment opportunities are made available, as are referrals for mental health, medical, and substance abuse treatment.”

For further information

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a law firm of specialist eviction lawyers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. We help landlords and tenants maintain healthy working relationships. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za if you need help with tenants’ rights or landlords’ responsibilities.

Further reading:

Is it legal to evict anyone during lockdown? No, say legal experts

By | Eviction news

An army of red ants members arriving at Kokotela informal settlement in Lawley outside Ennerdale.

An army of red ants members arriving at Kokotela informal settlement in Lawley outside Ennerdale. (Ntwaagae Seleka, News24)

Evicting people from their homes during the national lockdown against the spread of Covid-19 is an offence and should be punishable by a fine or imprisonment.This is the view of legal experts amid the eviction of land occupiers in Lawley outside Ennerdale at the weekend.

News24 reported the Red Ants had demolished scores of shacks and houses in Lawley on Saturday, leaving many people homeless. They returned on Tuesday to continue demolishing structures.

This has led to a public outcry and has prompted Gauteng Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile to clarify the actions of the City of Johannesburg at a briefing on Tuesday.

The government has made it clear that no evictions would be allowed for the duration of the lockdown “regardless of whether it is a formal or informal residence or a farm dwelling”.

But the issue of illegal land occupation during the lockdown could equally not be tolerated, Maile said on Saturday.

Following criticism, he said on Tuesday the destroyed structures were “actually new structures that were not occupied by anyone”.

This is an important consideration when it comes to the legality of destroying dwellings that are already occupied.

According to advocate and former judge Anna-Marie de Vos SC who specialises in socioeconomic and land rights litigation, there was a difference between stopping land invasions and evicting people from their homes.

“If you are in the process of invading land, in other words you’re putting up your structures and materials, that is invasion, and that can be stopped without a court order. That is called counter-spoliation. Spoliation is the concept of taking the law into your own hands.

“The argument of the municipality is that the [land occupiers] are spoliating – in other words, they’re taking land unlawfully, and therefore you can stop them with a counter-spoliation action.”

Catch-22 situation

But, said De Vos, there was a thin line between invading land and already living on it.

“The test would be: Do they already sleep there? Are their possessions there? Do they cook there? 

“Once that has been established – even if it’s just for a day or two – then people can’t be evicted. But if they’re still in the process of erecting buildings, then you are entitled to do that because it’s not an eviction you are stopping a land invasion.”

She added she had dealt with many cases where people have been evicted, even though it was clear from examining their dwellings they lived there – indications such as curtains, mattresses or cooking equipment. “That is not allowed.”

According to her, the situation under the lockdown made it exceptionally difficult for NGOs to determine the merits when it came to evictions, because of restrictions of movement and gaining access to the courts.

“You need to get a letter from the Legal Practitioners’ Council for every case – so it becomes a Catch-22 situation. When people are being evicted unfairly, they have no access to legal practitioners and legal practitioners have no access to them. You can’t get a letter unless you have a client and you can’t get a client unless you have a letter to go there.”

According to Louise du Plessis, the head of the land and housing programme at Lawyers for Human Rights, once people have occupied structures such as shacks, municipalities have to bring a court application to evict them, and the current lockdown regulations did not allow for that.

“Destroying homes where people already live is illegal. There is no way people can be evicted if they already live in those structures – not without a court order. For now, the government cannot touch them. They can bring an application after the lockdown and have them evicted then.”

What is the legal recourse for evictees?

Du Plessis said if it could be proven that people have been living in their structures, even for a short time, removing them was unlawful.

She echoed what De Vos said, adding it was impossible to get a case number without consulting with people, which was restricted during the lockdown.

“Anyone evicted unlawfully during the lockdown will have a good case to take to court on an urgent basis to go back to where they were,” said Du Plessis.

“Civil society – such as Lawyers for Human Rights, the Legal Resources Centre and Socioeconomic Rights Institute – should be able to access these people and assist them,” said De Vos.

“Second, NGOs, which specialise in social matters, should engage with the government – especially on municipal level – to stop them from illegally evicting people. If what I’m seeing is an illegal eviction and not merely stopping a land invasion, it’s a disgrace.”

Structures ‘incomplete, unoccupied’

On Tuesday, Maile said, subsequent to the demolitions in Lawley, “we had engagements with the mayor of the City of Johannesburg seeking clarity on the matter and he explained that the structures that were demolished were actually new structures that were not occupied by anyone”.

“What happened at Lawley last Sunday, was that we had planned a visit to the area along with the mayor of Johannesburg in order to undertake an assessment of the situation on the ground following the demolition of incomplete and unoccupied structures.

“These structures were demolished to prevent land invasions,” Maile said, adding the land was unoccupied.

On Sunday, the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Machwene Semenya, raised concerns over alleged evictions carried out by municipalities in Durban, Lawley in Johannesburg, and Cape Town.

In a statement, Semenya said the evictions were “unfortunate and inappropriate”, especially during the lockdown that was declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“The evictions glaringly diminish the intentions of the lockdown and expose already vulnerable people to Covid-19 and other harmful elements such as crime and rainy weather.

“When the president and the executive announced that there will be no evictions, we understood that those instructions would be respected by all.

“It is therefore unacceptable that municipalities have undermined the spirit of the lockdown and have shown clear disdain and lack of empathy for the people, especially the poor,” Semenya said.

“We urge the municipalities to desist and refrain from any planned evictions henceforth, and to abide by the regulations.”

Semenya cautioned against the illegal occupation of land by communities; however, due to the lockdown, she said she hoped there would be no evictions.

“Illegal occupation of the land undermines the law of the country and should not be tolerated.”

On Monday, the City of Cape Town said it had delivered material to 49 households who illegally occupied a piece of land in Khayelitsha so as to adhere to the interim court order for temporary relief to these illegal occupiers during the remainder of the Covid-19 crisis.

The court will assess the merits of the case after the lockdown ends.

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Evicted Durban residents say City had no court order

By | Eviction news, Homeless

Dozens left homeless after shacks demolished on Sunday

Photo of shack
Zamokwakhe Hlongwa stands next to what remains of his shack. Photo: Musa Binda

Forty-five people were left without homes when the eThekwini Municipality’s anti-land invasion unit demolished 24 shacks in Daytona River Village informal settlement in Lamontville, in the south of Durban on Sunday.

Zamokwakhe Hlongwa has lived in the informal settlement for the past four years. He said he lost almost everything during the demolition.

He said he was less worried about finding shelter than where he would get money to buy food for his two small children for the next ten or so days. He only gets paid on the last day of the month.

“They mixed all my food during their heartless demolition. I found rice mixed with maize meal and flour. I had to throw it away because it was messed up,” said Hlongwa.

He said he was home when the demolition took place. But everything happened so quickly.

“My fiancé was bathing when they stormed the informal settlement, she had to grab a towel and cover her body and run out of the shack. As a result all our belongings were left inside the shack,” said Hlongwa. This is why his goods and food were damaged.

He added that his children were not going to school because their uniforms had been torn.

Lunga Mgwaba has lived in the informal settlement for eight years. He said he was not home when the demolition took place. He had gone to deliver the products he sells to a nearby township.

He said he got a call from one of the shack dwellers telling him to stop what he was doing wherever he was and rush back to the informal settlement because the demolition had started.

“I was so lucky that they did not start near my shack. I called my brother who lives a few kilometres away and we packed my belongings in a van and drove off. Even though my shack was demolished and the material [it was made out of] was destroyed, my belongings were saved,” said Mgwaba.

The settlement was established in 2002 and the first demolition took place on 7 May 2019, a day before the general election. Residents claimed they were not given any court order, and they could not understand why the demolition was taking place only now.

Mqapheli Bonono, the provincial chairperson of housing movement Abahlali BaseMjondolo, said: “As usual there was no court order for this eviction and it was therefore an illegal and criminal act by the municipality.”

Bonono suspects the demolition took place because some residents recently joined Abahlali. “We suspect that the gangster administration, eThekwini Municipality, was angered by the shack dwellers’ decision to join our movement,” he said.

The municipality has not responded to questions sent on Monday.

Source: GroundUP by Musa Binda (emphasis by SDLAW*).

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates (SDLAW) are attorneys in Cape Town specialising in evictions. Now operating in Gauteng and Durban. Our specialist eviction lawyers assist both landlords and tenants with the eviction process, over residential, commercial and farm property across South Africa.

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