Cape Town - The Cape Town Magistrate’s Court has ruled against social housing giant Communicare in an eviction case due to rent arrears that morphed into a question of the ownership of some of its properties.
In March last year, after a challenge from tenants, Communicare was forced to release a statement detailing the history of how it came to be in its present form since apartheid times.
It said it had officially changed its name via the registrar of companies in 1964, from Citizens’ Housing League Utility Company to Citizens’ Housing League. It went through another name change to the Housing League, and finally in 1990 to Communicare.
The issue of ownership came up in the affidavits presented in court by the tenant against whom Communicare had brought the application in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation Act, or PIE Act.
Communicare’s affidavit submitted for the matter said the tenant, Ncumisa Matu, entered a lease agreement with it in July 2015, but had fallen into arrears with her rental since June 2019, and had remained in continued breach to date.
They said this eventually led to the issuing of a formal letter of demand on January 16, 2020, and later an eviction notice.
In her affidavit, Matu opposed the eviction application by Communicare.
She said that in January 2019, Communicare informed her and the rest of the community at the flats in Brooklyn that they were transferring all their assets to a new company, Goodfind Pty Ltd.
She said the tenants were told that if they refused to sign the new leases, their contracts would be terminated, giving them a month’s notice, and that Communicare did not need to furnish any reasons for the termination of the contracts.
She said she would be rendered homeless if she were to be evicted, and requested the court dismiss all the actions against her because there is currently a case in the high court which is dealing with all the matters of Communicare’s ownership of the flat she lives in.
Reached for comment on Thursday, Communicare chief operating officer Makhosi Kubheka said the organisation planned to appeal the judgment, and that Matu was neither a leaseholder nor a lawful occupant of the unit in question.
Kubheka said that while Communicare respected and had confidence in the due process of the law, they were concerned that unlawful occupants were allowed to abuse court processes.
“Communicare has several grounds to appeal the judgment, including issues raised in relation to ownership of the property, its right to seek legal recourse against rental non-payments and the misunderstanding regarding the social housing institution status of Communicare.”
In the judgment, Acting Magistrate Venice Burgins took issue with Communicare on the matter of the unresolved land claim against it in the Land Claims Court in Randburg, Johannesburg.
Burgins questioned the origin of Communicare specifically in terms of the Interim Constitution of 1993, which stipulated at the time that any assets acquired under the old regime were meant by law to have been handed over to the new government post-1994.
In November last year, Land Claims Court Judge Thomas Ncube instructed the Deeds Office to provide all the documents related to Communicare’s ownership of a number of properties in a case where tenants had queried the real ownership.
At the time, Kubheka said all property owned by Communicare was registered with the Deeds Office and that after the requirements for all legally registered companies in South Africa, Communicare is registered and in good standing with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).
“The fact that this matter is before the court does not mean that tenants don’t have to pay their rent. Communicare advises tenants to continue to pay their rent if they don’t want a bad credit record or face the risk of their arrears being handed over for collection,” Khubeka said last year.
Housing activist Colin Arendse said he was looking for a law firm or an NGO to assist with litigation funding to obtain an urgent high court interdict to stop Communicare from filing eviction applications in the lower magistrate’s courts while the land claim lodged against it is still pending in the higher Land Claims Court.