Cape Town 140603. Residents of Siyanyanzela informal settlement in Lwandle are left homeless after Sanral evicted them. Some residents burned down their shacks after realising that the law enforcement is taking their material away. Picture Cindy waxa.Reporter Zodidi/Argus

Cape Town -

The national Human Settlements Department has allocated R4.3 million for the families evicted from Sanral land near the N2, and minister Lindiwe Sisulu will sign letters to the employers of all the workers among the evicted to make sure they don’t lose their jobs as well as their homes and possessions.

“They are worried that not having turned up at work it may jeopardise their work,” Sisulu said on Thursday.

The letters would be handed to the councillor to pass on to the workers for their employers.

A ministerial inquiry is under way into the evictions carried out by the South African National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) during a wet and cold week. An estimated R4.3m in emergency funding has been allocated - though not finalised - to go towards emergency housing kits, and to provide ablution facilities and basic electricity supplies on a site to which the families will move.

On Thursday night, the 849 families - roughly 7 000 people - had to decide whether to move to other Sanral land, identified by the national government roads agency on Thursday following the ministerial intervention, or return to Nomzamo informal settlement for six months.

However, Sisulu said this did not mean people had carte blanche for illegal land occupation.

“We don’t want to encourage this kind of situation. Illegal occupation is wrong and evicting people illegally is also wrong… South Africans must understand they can’t do wrong, whatever the level of provocation.”

Sisulu said money would be recouped from whoever was responsible for having allowed this “blatant carelessness”, which had compromised systems put in place to govern such situations and the constitutional rights of those evicted.

The ministerial inquiry will have until August 5 to discover the “real reasons” for the illegal land occupation, the process of obtaining and executing the eviction order and the role of law enforcement agencies in this process.

The inquiry’s terms of reference say: “The competition for access to urban space as a result of rapid urbanisation must engender a lawful approach by all the parties.”

Central are concerns that inter-governmental relations have foundered. Sisulu said Sanral and the City of Cape Town should have elevated the dispute for resolution up the intergovernmental co-operation ladder. This would have meant involving the transport and housing departments at provincial and, ultimately national level, to ensure people’s constitutional rights to shelter were not threatened.

On Thursday, civil society organisations - the Social Justice Coalition, Equal Education and Ndifuna Ukwazi - said no final eviction order had been granted. The high court order granted in January, on which Sanral relied, was an interim order against those intending to occupy, not those already on the land, and granted without an actual hearing.

The NGOs said Sanral’s court application was not accompanied by any plans to develop the N2 in the Lwandle area, despite longstanding proposals to do so, but it did include a letter from the City of Cape Town’s anti-land invasion unit warning the agency of new shacks being erected, and letters of concern from residents.

Citing a 2011 legal precedent in the Constitutional Court relating to Joburg council evictions, the NGOs said: “Evictions are sometimes necessary for legitimate development purposes. When this is the case there is still a need to provide temporary shelter... This same moral and constitutional duty therefore now falls on the City of Cape Town - it has largely failed to fulfil it.”

Cape Argus