Cape Town - In a scathing judgment made against Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, Western Cape High Court Judge Daniel Thulare has dismissed the City’s attempt to challenge a decision to secure a child’s inheritance.
The minor child involved was orphaned after his mother was murdered by her husband.
Her burnt body was dumped in a shallow grave on a river bank.
With no maternal or paternal family to care for him, the court ordered that Hill-Lewis had to establish a trust for the benefit of the child, and assist him with obtaining ownership of the RDP house he lived in with his mother.
The court had also made certain orders in respect of the curator, the premier of the Eastern Cape and the director-general for the National Department of Social Development.
The three complied with the orders of the court respectively.
Judge Thulare noted that Hill-Lewis argued the matter on a technical basis.
“The thinking seems to be that the court was supposed to treat the child ‘as a mere extension of his parents, umbilically destined to sink with them’.
“This was to be the case even when the legal position was that the unusually comprehensive and emancipatory character of section 28 presupposes that in our new dispensation the sins and traumas of fathers and mothers should not be visited on their children.
“His attitude is that the risk of children who are victims of crime losing the benefit of a home, while those not entitled to the houses owned by the children’s deceased and/or imprisoned parents enjoy them, is none of his business and the courts must leave him alone.
“It may be so, but the case presents an opportunity to test that and he cannot run to the appeal court to cancel the whole examination,” Judge Thulare said.
The Cape Argus approached Hill-Lewis’s office for comment yesterday, to which the City responded: “The City notes the decision to dismiss the leave to appeal by Judge Thulare. There appears to be little rationale or legal basis for the dismissal, and the City is now taking legal advice on directly petitioning the SCA for leave to appeal.”
The National Coloured Congress said the court’s findings exposed Hill-Lewis as a leader who, rather than acting in the best interest of the vulnerable, “chooses to prioritise personal interests”. It said his legal action raised questions about his ethical compass.
“The City of Cape Town and the nation at large deserve transparency and accountability from their elected officials. It is our hope that the public will review the judgment and draw their conclusions regarding mayor Hill-Lewis’s actions.
“This incident raises concerns about the leadership of mayor Hill-Lewis, making him possibly the most uncaring, least empathetic, and most arrogant mayor in post-apartheid South Africa,” the party said.
Anti-gender-based violence organisation Ilitha Labantu’s spokesperson Siyabulela Monakali said they were distressed by Hill-Lewis’s appeal.
“The circumstances around this case are disheartening as the child has lost his mother as a result of femicide, and as an organisation we strongly condemn the decision taken by the mayor to further orphan the child.
“These actions go against what we should be standing for as a nation. No child should be failed by the state and we strongly appeal to all relevant parties to ensure that the rights and dignity of the child are prioritised and protected.”
Patric Solomons, director of child protection NPO Molo Songololo, applauded Judge Thulare’s verdict.
“Molo Songololo calls on the mayor of Cape Town to take the example of the judge, and put the rights of the child first. This is a constitutional obligation that the mayor has, to prioritise the rights, care, development and protection of children.
“Where the law fails to prioritise protection for children, as it clearly does in this case, regarding children’s inheritance rights.
“The mayor’s obligation, like the judge did in this judgment, is to explore all possible alternatives to ensure the child’s interests, needs and rights are secured.”