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shacks Archives | Eviction Lawyers South Africa

Covid-19: Shackdwellers lose court case to stop demolitions

By | Eviction news

The Durban High Court dismissed Abahlali baseMjondolo’s application to interdict the City from continuing with ongoing shack demolitions in Ekuphumeleleni and Azania Informal Settlemnets. Photo: Nokulunga Majola

Covid-19 does not mean that there must be a holiday in respecting the laws of the country, says Durban mayor.

First published by GroundUp

Shackdweller movement Abahlali baseMjondolo failed to secure an interdict against the Ethekwini Municipality to stop what it says are illegal evictions.

Abahlali went to the Durban High Court on Tuesday saying the City had violently evicted residents of Ekuphumeleleni in Marianhill and Azania in Cato Manor.

The Covid-19 lockdown regulations put a halt to any evictions even if there is a court order. However, the City is still empowered to halt “land invasions” and to demolish “unoccupied shacks”, which is what the City’s land invasion unit claims it was doing when it destroyed shacks in the two settlements.

But Abahlali says this is the City’s “routine response”, and over the years the movement has won numerous cases by collecting detailed evidence in the form of photographs and affidavits proving long term residence in shacks that were demolished.

According to the movement, on Monday Judge Mohini Moodley asked both parties to discuss the matter and find solutions on their own.

Abahlali wanted to rebuild shacks. The City refused. It offered alternative accommodation in emergency camps set up for homeless people during the lockdown.

But Abahlali movement said its members did not want to be moved to camps as there was no guarantee that they would be able to return to the land where they are part of a community, and close to their employment and the schools their children attend.

They were also worried about conditions in the camps, including the difficulty of social distancing and the high percentage of people with serious untreated addiction issues.

“Some of the women who had been evicted did not feel that these camps would be safe for them and their children,” said Abahlali’s deputy president Mqapheli Bonono in a statement.

Abahlali’s legal team argued that the City’s own evidence showed that shacks were occupied prior to the evictions: “The photographs that we have shared of the evictions, which can be seen on our Facebook page, clearly show beds, mattresses, other furniture and a fridge amidst the remains of the shacks that were destroyed.”

However, Judge Moodley was not convinced.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said the matter was “ laden with disinformation aimed at ruining the City’s image”.

“Covid-19 does not mean that there must be a holiday in respecting the laws of the country … We are a caring municipality and have mobilised resources to provide shelter to more than 4,000 homeless people.”

“Over and above that, we have ensured that we meet the needs of our residents living in informal settlements, hostels and transit camps to protect them against contracting this lethal virus. Why would we demolish shacks that are occupied by the poorest of the poor?” said Kaunda.

“People are really scared,” said Bonono. “They don’t know what will happen tonight, tomorrow or the next day. We all fear that there will be more violence. The situation in which we have suddenly found ourselves in is very uncertain. In this lockdown, we cannot use the streets or the courts in the way that we have done so successfully during 15 years of struggle against evictions.”

“State violence and evictions became particularly urgent during this time of worldwide health crisis in which impoverished people are most at risk,” he said. DM (emphasis by SD Law*)

* SD Law aka Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc., is a law firm of specialised eviction lawyers in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Contact one of our professional eviction lawyers for help with the eviction process.

Court declares shack eviction unlawful

By | Eviction news, Homeless, Uncategorized

Tswelopele residents from Extension 8 won a legal victory against the EMPD and the City of Ekurhuleni on May 6 at the North Gauteng High Court.

The City of Ekurhuleni was ordered by the North Gauteng High Court on May 6 to desist from evicting land occupiers in Tswelopele Extension 8 without a court order. The City also has to pay each occupier R1 500 for damages to property that was caused during prior evictions.

Thandeka Chauke, a lawyer for Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), who represented the occupiers, said the order declared the evictions were unconstitutional and unlawful.

Residents of Tswelopele took to the streets on March 19 in protest against the lack of service delivery and land occupation. Their anger was directed at the DA councillor of Ward 9, Dereck Thompson.

They marched to the councillor’s office in Olifantsfontein, but he was not present. They demanded that the office give them the right to occupy the piece of land on which they had built their shacks.

Florah Tjabadi, the community protest leader, said they wanted to meet with the councillor but he did not arrive.

“We hoped to get the land because we are currently living in shacks as tenants. The properties also accommodate orphans and pensioners and the majority of tenants are unemployed,” said Tjabadi.

Unlawful eviction

The residents of Tswelopele Extension 8 have won a court victory against the EMPD and the City of Ekurhuleni.

Chauke said the court interdict would give the occupiers peace of mind because no one would repeatedly come and destroy their possessions.

Tjabadi said they were happy about winning.

“We have been trying to put a stop to the harassment since August last year and at last, we won. It means we won’t have to worry about paying rent and we can go out to look for jobs.”

Tjabadi claimed the EMPD had evicted the occupiers countless times, without ever showing the occupiers an eviction order. The first eviction was on December 16, four months after they took occupation of the land.

“We started to stay on the piece of land in August last year and we were chased away more than 10 times. Our belongings were scattered everywhere,” added Tjabadi.

The EMPD and the City withdrew their counter-application, but they previously argued in court papers that the occupiers did not live on the property and the structures were vacant or incomplete when they were demolished. They said the City did not need an eviction order to demolish vacant or incomplete structures.

“The structures were mostly incomplete and impossible for people to reside in and no children or elderly people were noted at the property,” the City said in earlier court papers.

Judge Anthony Millar ordered the City to launch an investigation into the alleged bribery and corruption of EMPD officials and to file a report with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the National Prosecuting Authority and his court within 30 days of the court order. The City was ordered to pay the costs of the case.

Source: Tembisan (emphasis by SDLAW*)

Further reading:

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a law firm in Cape Town, now operating in Gauteng and Durban, of specialised eviction attorneys, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our eviction lawyers on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 or info@sdlaw.co.za if you have been evicted unlawfully.

Recognition, respect and ethical responsibility are at the core of our practice.

– Founder, Attorney Simon David Dippenaar