Court grants Lenasia residents a reprieve

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sa Lenasia 699 INLSA SURVEY: Chairman of the Portfolio Committee for Local Government and Housing Errol Magerman leads a team of his colleagues on an inspection of the houses in Lenasia Extension 13 that were demolished. The houses were illegally built on municipal land. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Anna COX

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LENASIA residents have a nine-day reprieve from demolitions.

Yesterday, the Johannesburg High Court gave the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) until November 23 to lodge its report on its findings conducted in Lenasia Extension 13, where about 50 unoccupied houses were demolished.

The commission is not challenging the court order for demolition that was granted in September last year, but the manner in which the demolitions are being conducted. It is claiming that human rights are being violated.

However, the lawyer for the Gauteng Housing Department, advocate Modise Khoza, told Judge Phineas Mojapelo that the commission was “wasting time” because it could not influence the court order.

ST Lenz demolish in court ANGERED: Sulliman Barends, the spokesman for Lenasia residents whose houses were demolished by the Gauteng Housing Department, speaks outside the Johannesburg High Court yesterday. Picture: Timothy Bernard INLSA

“As far as violating human rights – it is like a prisoner complaining that their rights are being violated when he is sent to jail.

“These people’s homes are being demolished as a consequence of their actions – they brought it on themselves. No human rights are being violated as the houses demolished were unoccupied. An investigation won’t change this,” he said.

Khoza asked why the commission had not intervened earlier in the matter when the eviction order was sought by the Gauteng government.

He gave the judge the Housing Department’s undertaking that no demolition would take place until after the hearing on November 23.

Nedbank had attended the court hearing, believing that five of houses that have bonds, were on the list, but later withdrew when it was discovered that they were not.

The Housing Department has also slammed media reports that people have been left homeless.

It said the objective of the first phase of the operation was to target all the unoccupied properties, as well as vacant stands with perimeter walls for demolitions.

“On the day of the operation, our officials, working on site with the police, also ensured that all the properties were unoccupied before the demolitions were carried out. We are satisfied that the demolitions were as humane as possible by making sure that families were not directly affected by the operation,” said Local Government and Housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe.

The department has already issued notices to all the occupied houses and demolitions were planned to be carried out as part of the operation’s second phase.

The department has indicated that there is no need to provide alternative shelter as the properties were not occupied.

The court order, also, did not compel it to provide alternative accommodation given the financial status of the illegal occupants.

Mekgwe said her department was also engaging affected parties, including civic organisations, NGOs, political parties and others, and would remain open to all recommendations.

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