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Cape Town - The government needs to take a closer look at the laws which allow for the mass eviction of people, says the chairman of the ministerial inquiry on the Lwandle evictions, advocate Denzel Potgieter.
Potgieter was briefing the media on Monday on the progress and operations of the inquiry, which Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu established on June 4 to look into the recent evictions of hundreds of Lwandle residents.
The evictions were effected by the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) after the granting of an order by the Western Cape High Court.
But on Monday, mayor Patricia de Lille said she had written to Sisulu asking her on what grounds she had appointed the commission and “what she intends doing with the recommendations as ministerial inquiries may provide advice to a minister only”.
“I would suggest that the national ministry explore the motivations of Sanral, which is a state-owned company, to better understand why these evictions took place.”
Said Potgieter: “In so far as the type of recommendation that we might make, there are a lot of ideas. It just seems that something has gone wrong here in the way we understand the law, the legislative framework within which these things (evictions) occur.”
He said the law seemed to attempt to “strike a balance” between rights and interests of occupiers of land and landowners.
“And those of us who deal with court cases and eviction matters know that there is enough scope for the courts to do justice within that sort of framework.
“But I think any reasonable person will tell you that something untoward has occurred here where the evictees were put out.”
As part of it work, the inquiry would ask experts to assist it on how to deal with mass evictions.
“It does appear that one needs to look closely at the legislative framework to see how the law makes it possible for this sort of thing to happen,” said Potgieter.
The inquiry has about three months to complete its work.
One of its mandates is to investigate all the circumstances in which the evictions took place, including the history of evictions and factors leading up to the application by Sanral.
The inquiry must also establish the identity of the affected members of the community of Lwandle and how the community came to be on the land in question when there was a waiting list for the provision of housing.
“The minister is desirous to establish the real causes of the land occupation, resultant evictions, and all legal processes that have been followed leading to the ultimate evictions,” said Potgieter.
Community leader Mpatisi Tshedu said he hoped those who had been injured in clashes with police would be called to testify.
“There were so many who were shot with rubber bullets and others who suffered injury because of the tear gas inhalation.
“We can never be compensated for the pain the eviction has caused us.
“All we want is the involved parties to say they were wrong and we can all move on and rebuild our lives.”