Court relief from shack demolitions

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Copy of ND Lamountville 3 (40052706) DAILY NEWS Mthokozisi Mazwi trying to put together the pieces that were left after his shack was destroyed by the municipality. Picture: Zanele Zulu

Durban - The eThekwini Municipality showed “bare-faced cheek” in demolishing 25 Lamontville shacks, a day after a Constitutional Court application was brought to have a high court order preventing land invasion declared unconstitutional.

This was according to lawyers for residents of the Madlala Village informal settlement, who on Friday were granted interim relief preventing the municipality from evicting them again.

Acting Durban High Court Judge Alex Jeffrey also declared the demolition of their shacks on Thursday unlawful.

With the help of the Legal Resource Centre, residents Lindelwa Mdodana and Matholandile Duba had brought an urgent application, fearing the municipality would return to demolish their homes.

Mdodana, who had been present at the Constitutional Court on Wednesday, said in court papers she had returned to Madlala Village “believing, quite mistakenly, that there would be no destruction of my house because it was constructed before March 28, 2013”.

On that date, high court Judge Piet Koen had granted an order in favour of the KZN MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, Ravi Pillay, authorising the municipality and the police to prevent anyone from invading land and building on land belonging to the department in Durban. He also authorised the demolition of informal houses built after this order was granted.

Residents of Madlala Village, joined by shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo as friends of the court, applied to the Constitutional Court last week claiming the order was used to remove them and residents from Cato Crest.

Judgment in the Constitutional Court matter was reserved.

Residents said they had built their homes in September 2012, before the order was granted.

Mdodana said municipal officials arrived at Madlala Village on Thursday at 9am and demolished 25 houses. She had been en route to the doctor when she received a call about the demolition.

She lived in her informal house with her husband and five children. Her husband was a security guard and she was unemployed, but ran a basic care facility for Madlala Village residents and its surrounds, helping people with HIV/Aids.

“When I returned I found the scattered remains of what used to be my house. My belongings were stacked next to the remains of my house,” read her affidavit.

Duba, who is unemployed, was at home at the time of the demolition and said municipal employees had arrived in five vehicles, unaccompanied by metro police. He said he was not presented with a court order, but had been told the residents must remove their belongings from their homes and not return to Madlala Village.

Duba said their homes had been hacked down with axes and they were led to believe the demolition crew would return to repeat the process should the residents not leave.

Mdodana’s affidavit read: “(Duba) and I intend to rebuild our homes. We have no other place to go. There are approximately 15 homes in Madlala Village and all of these occupants intend to rebuild their houses. They similarly have no place to go. There are elderly people and young children at the village. We cannot afford to let our children and family members live in the cold and exposed to the elements.”

In arguments before acting Judge Jeffrey on Friday, senior advocate Laurence Broughton Broster, representing Mdodana and Duba, said the municipality had the “bare-faced cheek” to, barely 24 hours after the Constitutional Court application, walk in and demolish the shacks.

Advocate Narisha Bhagwandeen, acting for the municipality, contended that from the time the March order was granted the municipality had not used this as an eviction order.

She said the municipality disputed that Mdodana and Duba had lived at the village since September 2012.

“Our stance is that these are land invaders and we are entitled to act in the manner we have,” she argued.

The municipality was interdicted and restrained from evicting Mdodana and Duba without a valid court order and has until March 11 to show cause why the interim order should not be made final.

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