797 A little girl plays amongst the rubble which use to be a house in Lenasia which was demolished for being on municipality land that was sold illegaly. 141112 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - Lenasia residents have a nine-day reprieve from demolitions. On Thursday the Johannesburg High Court gave the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) until next Friday to lodge its report on its findings conducted in Lenasia Extension 13, where about 50 unoccupied houses have been demolished.

The commission is not challenging the court order for demolition that was granted in September last year, but the manner in which the demolitions are being conducted. It is claiming that human rights are being violated.

However, the lawyer for the Gauteng Housing Department, advocate Modise Khoza, told Judge Phineas Mojapelo that the commission was “wasting time” because it had no chance of influencing the court order.

“As far as violating human rights, it is like a prisoner and his family complaining that their rights are being violated when he is sent to jail.

“These people’s homes are being demolished as a consequence of their actions - they brought it on themselves. No human rights are being violated as the houses demolished were not occupied. An investigation will not overturn this,” he said.

Khoza asked why the commission had not intervened earlier when the eviction order was sought by the Gauteng government.

He gave the judge the housing department’s undertaking that no demolitions would take place until after the hearing next Friday.

The Housing Department has slammed media reports that people have been left homeless by the demolitions. It said the first phase of the operation targeted all the unoccupied properties, as well as vacant stands with perimeter walls for demolitions.

“On the day of the operation, our officials, working on site with the police, also ensured that all the properties were not occupied before the demolitions were carried out. We are satisfied that the demolitions were as humane as possible by making sure that families were not directly affected by the operation,” said the MEC for Local Government and Housing Ntombi Mekgwe.

The department has issued notices to all the occupied houses and demolitions are planned in the second phase.

The department has indicated there is no need to provide alternative shelter as the properties are not occupied.

Mekgwe said her department was engaging civic organisations, NGOs, religious movements, political parties and other interested parties and would remain open to all the recommendations brought forward.

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The Star