SAHRC vs City of Cape Town in land evictions case to be heard
Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has accused the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) of being “driven by politics” after the commission and the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) took it to court over evictions.
The case is expected to be heard on Wednesday.
The City has raised concerns about the court application. According to it, should every municipality be prevented from protecting vacant land from illegal land invasions, it loses every open patch of land - including privately-owned, state-owned, public parks and pavements across the city.
“We have opposed the matter, which will be heard in court. The City has already lost 357 hectares of land in the last two years due to illegal land invasions - delaying services that should have been provided, pushing law-abiding citizens aside on housing waiting lists, and causing havoc with budgets that can no longer be spent,” said Mayor Dan Plato.
He said the SAHRC and LRC want the City to go through a lengthy process of obtaining a court order each time before carrying out an anti-land invasion operation.
“A process they know will take too long to allow us to actually prevent any land invasions. While we have accepted that some seemingly politically motivated NGOs cannot be reasoned with, we had hoped that a once reputable organisation like the SAHRC was still capable of sound reasoning and logic. Sadly, they now seem to be driven primarily by politics,” Plato said.
In the notice of motion filed by LRC, housing advocacy group Housing Assembly and the SAHRC, they want the court to declare the conduct of the City unlawful in several instances where it has demolished informal dwellings and structures in Ocean View, Kommetjie and Ethembeni in Khayelitsha.
They also want the court to have the City’s Anti-Land Invasions Unit be declared unconstitutional and unlawful. The City recently published a tender calling for bids from private companies to demolish illegal informal structures.
The court action comes after the City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit, accompanied by law enforcement officers, demolished informal structures at eThembeni near Empolweni in Khayelitsha.
In footage of one of the evictions, enforcement officers violently ejected a naked man from his home before throwing him to the ground and repeatedly preventing him from returning to the shack.
SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen has accused Plato of disrespecting the Chapter 9 institution.
“We view the mayor’s statement in a very serious light. The court must decide for itself. To accuse us of playing politics is outrageous.
“What we are asking for is for the City to follow the right processes when carrying out evictions and to do it humanely.
“To accuse the commission of these things is unbecoming but it doesn’t surprise me because they have been doing it before,” Nissen said.