Court orders City of Cape Town to rebuild demolished Hangberg structures within 48 hours
Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has been dealt a blow after the Western Cape High Court found in favour of poor residents of Hangberg, Hout Bay, that the DA-led council had evicted in the middle of winter and lockdown.
Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe found the City’s conduct unlawful and unconstitutional, ordering it to rebuild the structures demolished by City Law Enforcement within 48 hours.
The residents’ lawyer, Vernon Seymour, described the outcome as a victory for human rights.
“The court has shown the City that if you trample over people’s rights you will not get away with it. The City will now rethink the way they treat the poor. They are ordered to rebuild the structures within 48 hours and the chief registrar of the high court must be informed once this has been done,” Seymour said.
Violent clashes broke out last month when the residents were left destitute after their homes were destroyed.
Community activist Roscoe Jacobs said yesterday: “We are overjoyed with the fact that the court has ruled in favour of the community of Hangberg. We welcome the fact that the City has been found to have broken the law. The judgement has also highlighted the fact that the City is not above the law and therefore we call on the City to hold those who have taken and implemented this decision accountable because they have violated our community’s human rights,” Jacobs said.
Mayor Dan Plato said the City was considering its options regarding the judgment, as well as the “valuable community facility which has now been placed in jeopardy”.
“It is with disappointment that I note the judgment handed down today by Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, in which an illegally erected structure on City-owned land was ordered to be rebuilt.
“Despite the City offering two alternative sites for the structure to be built, and making it clear that notice had been given at the time not to erect the illegal structure, the judge still ruled in favour of the occupant of the illegally erected structure. This ruling was made despite the judge challenging the applicants yesterday on why they did not accept the alternatives offered,” Plato said.
Social Justice Coalition (SJC) general secretary Axolile Notywala said it was great that the courts were noting the unconstitutionality of such conduct. “This particular case on its own needs to be viewed in a much broader sense.
“The conduct of Law Enforcement, and City officials in general, across the city continues to see people evicted. It is (possible) that the City might appeal this judgment but it is important to use this judgment to continue unifying communities to fight against this brutality,” Notywala said.
The case between the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the City has meanwhile been postponed.
The City also faces another legal battle after the Legal Resources Centre and Human Settlements and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu threatened to haul it before the courts following the violent eviction of Khayelitsha resident Bulela Qolani, who was dragged out naked from his one-room eThembeni shack, an incident that was captured on video and went viral on social media.
Meanwhile, Mfuleni residents protesting over the allocation of houses in Bosasa allegedly torched a school bus. The protest entered its ninth day yesterday. Mfuleni and BM section informal settlement residents in Khayelitsha claim the City allocated houses to people who were not on the housing list.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond has condemned the torching of one of the learner scheme buses.