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Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled to evict the family of an elderly retired domestic worker who had moved in with her on a farm in the Stellenbosch area.
However, she and one son could remain, Judge Raymond Zondo said.
The court had to interpret Section 6(2) of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, which guaranteed a right to family life for an occupier, and also consider the rights of farm owner Laurence Juta, he said.
“Accordingly, it would be just and equitable that the applicants be evicted,” said Zondo.
Farm owner Laurence Juta had originally approached the Stellenbosch Magistrate's Court to evict some members of his former domestic worker Magrieta Hattingh's family.
She continued staying on the farm after she had stopped working for Juta in terms of a previous agreement, which allowed her and her husband, who later died, to live in part of a labourer's cottage.
Hattingh's adult sons Pieter and Michael, and Michael's wife Edwina, moved in with her.
Edwina was temporarily employed by Juta. The two sons claimed they occasionally also worked on the farm.
Hattingh's younger son Ricardo then also moved in with his mother, as his job did not provide accommodation.
Ricardo is the family member who gets to stay and he will be able to help Magrieta.
Juta had wanted Hattingh's older sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren off the property, because a farm manager had been cycling long distances to work and needed the accommodation.
The Hattinghs had argued that Magrieta, whom Juta did not seek to evict, had the right to a family life in terms of the Act and so they should be allowed to stay.
But Juta had argued that this should not extend to adult self-reliant children, which the Hattinghs disputed.
The Stellenbosch Magistrate's Court ruled in favour of the Hattinghs, but Juta approached the Land Claims Court, which overturned that judgment and granted an eviction order.
The matter was then taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which upheld the Land Claims Court's ruling.
The Constitutional Court was asked to consider the interpretation of the Act and weigh up the Hattinghs' rights to family life against Juta's rights as a land owner.
In handing down the judgment, Zondo said that in terms of interpreting the relevant section of the Act, the court found unanimously that the term “family life” did not just mean dependent minor children, or a nuclear family.
But, there were competing factors.
“In this exercise all the relevant factors must be taken into account and a value judgment be made whether it would be just and equitable that Mrs Hattingh does not live with the applicants,” said Zondo.
“This means that the exclusion or eviction of the applicants from Fijnbosch (the farm) will not infringe Mrs Hattingh's right to family life, because even though it limits that right the limitation is just and equitable.”
He said, however, that the date of eviction also had to be just and equitable and the applicants should be given about three months from the date of the judgment to leave Fijnbosch.
Part of the order was to amend eviction dates on the order of the SCA from May 12 and 13 to June 13 and 14.