KZN man, 84, wins four-year battle to get back expropriated home
Durban - A Durban High Court consent order has finally brought relief to an elderly KwaDukuza man who battled for four years to get his house back after the local municipality expropriated it allegedly in violation of his constitutional rights.
This was after Louis Langer, 84, initially had to buy the family home from his white father due to discriminatory apartheid laws that had prevented him, as his then classified “coloured” son, from receiving it as inheritance in the 1960s.
Langer filed a court application seeking to force the KwaDukuza Municipality to give him back legal ownership of his property after it had offered to pay him a paltry R19030 in compensation for expropriation in 2013.
Nevertheless, the municipality went ahead with the expropriation and transferred the property into its name in November 2014. It also attempted to evict him.
The respondents in the matter were the KwaDukuza Municipality, the Deeds Office and the Minister of Public Works.
Langer’s attorney, Simone Gray of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), said the municipality initially opposed the application but then did not file answering papers and agreed to negotiations.
Durban High Court judge president Isaac Madondo granted the consent order with costs, directing the municipality to transfer the property back into Langer’s name within three months.
In court papers, Langer said he had objected in writing to the municipality’s financial offer of compensation and to the “unlawful and unconstitutional” expropriation of his property repeatedly.
He said he had provided the municipality with a professional valuation report from professional valuer Renier Grobler, showing the 0.5160-hectare property was worth R230 000 at the time. However, he said the municipality had ignored his objections and the valuation certificate.
Langer, who rents out the property to tenants to complement his R1 600 state pension, argued that his constitutional rights to “just and equitable” compensation for the expropriated property had been violated, as well as his rights to equity before the law and to decent housing.
He said his father had bought the property around 1943.
“My father was white and my mother was black. My siblings and I were not eligible to obtain the property from my father through inheritance or donation due to the discriminatory laws at the time. My father wished to donate the property to me but was prevented by law from doing so,” he said.
“I therefore purchased the property from my father in 1967. I also paid my siblings amounts equal to the value of their shares.
“The property was then transferred to me,” he said.
He said the municipality had also promised him a title deed for the section of his property that contained the buildings as it claimed it only wanted to “partially” expropriate the vacant land.
However, Langer said the municipality had not provided him with the title deed.
He also asked the court to amend the allegedly “unconstitutional” section 10(5)(a) of the Expropriation Act, which provides that unless the minister and owner have agreed otherwise, the owner is deemed to have accepted the minister’s offer of compensation if the owner does not make an application to court for determination of compensation.
Judge Madondo’s consent order directed the municipality to “take all the necessary steps” to transfer the property into the Langer’s name and to pay the transfer fee and any other costs associated with the transaction.
He also ordered the deeds office to register the property in the man’s name.
LRC Durban regional director Sharita Samuel said Langer was a pensioner and did not have the money or legal knowledge to launch legal proceedings “for the determination of just and equitable compensation as envisaged in section 10(5)”.
“The LRC was able to secure relief for our client through a negotiated settlement and is pleased to have assisted in realising his right to security of tenure by regaining title to his family home.”