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Cape judge rules that woman has no right to evict her ex from property neither owns

Cape Town-180840-The Western Cape High Court. Picture By: Laille Jack / African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town-180840-The Western Cape High Court. Picture By: Laille Jack / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 7, 2022

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Cape Town - A woman who turned to court to evict her former boyfriend from an informal settlement dwelling on a plot of land neither of them owned, left the corridors of justice empty-handed after a Western Cape High Court judge ruled she had no right to lodge the action.

The court heard Rochelle Adams, a single mother, and Sharief Manuel became romantically involved in June 2018.

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In June 2019, a friend, Rukaya Davids, granted Adams “permission” to erect a home on an empty plot in the area where she and her husband had lived for some years, before they dismantled their dwelling and moved elsewhere.

Adams set about building in stages, relying on loans and money she was able to scrape together. Meanwhile, she invited Manuel to live with her and her child on the property once it was fit for occupation.

However, when the relationship ended in July 2020, Adams told Manuel he was no longer welcome to take up residence with her, once her home was completed.

Nevertheless, Manuel moved on to the plot. He told Adams he was doing so to protect the partially constructed dwelling from vandalism.

Adams initially refused but subsequently agreed in the belief that a protection order she was applying for against Manuel would force him out.

However, the interim protection order she attained only directed Manuel not to enter the applicant’s residence at a different address; it did not order Manuel to vacate the dwelling.

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Meanwhile, Manuel took it upon himself to complete the construction of the dwelling and has since lived there with his two children.

Judge Judy Cloete said although Adams and Manuel were under the impression the plot might be on land owned by the Department of Public Works, there was no official record of ownership.

She said the department did own land in the area, but neither Davids nor Adams were formally allocated the plot by the department or whoever the owner is or was.

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The question the judge had to decide on was whether Adams qualified as a “person in charge of land”.

The judge found Adams did not believe she had some kind of ownership of the land but believed the dwelling was her property.

Judge Cloete found Adams’s control over the property was tenuous because she had never lived on it and had agreed to Manuel moving there without telling him there were conditions.

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“I am therefore compelled to conclude that the applicant is not a person in charge of land for purposes of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act, and therefore lacks the necessary locus standi.

“I acknowledge that this is a hard luck case, but cases do not fall to be determined on sympathy.”

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