Cape Town - Social justice lobby groups are celebrating a victory after the government heeded calls for evictions to be placed on hold.
Last week, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would enter a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, more than 20 social justice organisations called for a moratorium on all evictions throughout the country.
An open letter, penned by a number of social justice movements and organisations, addressed to the president’s National Command Council, was sent two weekends ago.
In a directive addressed to all the judges of the country from Judge President John Hlophe, he instructed judges to suspend eviction applications - including the execution against residential immovable property. This suspension is until April 17.
Law Centre Ndifuna Ukwazi director Mandisa Shandu said: “We applaud the Presidency, the National Command Council and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services for heeding our call and having the courage to urgently issue this nation-wide suspension of evictions, as well as sales in executions.
“We remain deeply concerned that, despite this moratorium, there may be attempts by some unscrupulous landlords or property owners to try to evict people during the lockdown. Any attempts to evict, or otherwise remove, people from where they live at this time are manifestly unjust and illegal. Yet, illegal evictions are widespread and many poor and working-class communities across the country are precarious during the lockdown period, with occupiers, informal settlement residents, farmworkers and farm dwellers, and woman and children particularly at risk,” said Shandu.
Some of the organisations that have supported this call include the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, Equal Education, Section 27 and the Stellenbosch Backyarders Forum.
Good Party secretary-general Brett Herron said: “We are in extraordinary times, which require us to implement extraordinary measures to limit the risk of spread of the virus and to mitigate against the economic fallout. Banks are already starting to announce loan repayment holidays for small businesses and our government had a small business support plan in the works.
“These drastic measures confirm that we are facing the crisis of our lifetime.”
Herron said the country cannot ignore those who are vulnerable to homelessness, which could be a direct consequence of the virus and its devastation of economic activity.
The DA's Emma Powell, spokesperson on human settlements, water and sanitation, said: “Now is the time for civil society and the private and public sector to come together to do everything possible to minimise the economic impact of the Covid-19 virus on South Africans.”