Court rules for the people

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Dumisani Dube

REMOVED: Red Ants evict residents of a housing estate in Pennyville, Soweto yesterday. Picture: Dumisani Dube

LEBOGANG SEALE

lebogang.seale@inl.co.za

EVICTIONS continue to be synonymous with the history of South Africa, despite the advent of democracy almost 19 years ago.

They have become a conundrum that pit municipalities against residents and property owners.

In October last year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the eviction of about 700 families from the Tshwane council-owned Schubart Park building in Pretoria was unlawful.

The court instructed the Tshwane Metro council to hold more “meaningful” talks with the evicted residents and to pay their legal fees. The court also ordered residents and Tshwane to report on these deliberations to the High Court to determine, as soon as reasonably possible, when residents can return to their homes.

The Constitutional Court ruling was a victory for residents who were forcefully removed after violent clashes with police during protests over unpaid water and electricity bills.

The groundbreaking judgment came after the Pretoria High Court had found the building was unsafe and ordered the city and residents to reach an agreement on temporary accommodation, pending an inquiry into the refurbishment of the complex.

The verdict came as a result of an impasse between the council and the residents on finding an amicable solution. The High Court then ordered that if renovations were impossible, the building should be demolished and residents given alternative accommodation.

The Schubart Park case is one of a spate of evictions.

Joburg has had to deal with sporadic and incessant eviction incidents. From the inner-city to the outlying settlements such as Marlboro, Pennyville and Kliptown in Soweto, Joburg has not been left unscathed.

Residents of a high-rise building in Main Street spent Christmas under a bridge after they were evicted. The derelict building was found to have been hijacked – a problem the council is still grappling with.

Evictions have also proved a predicament for other municipalities.

In September last year, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court ordered the eThekwini municipality to provide 37 families living in a transit camp with permanent accommodation within three months – or face a fine or imprisonment.


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