On 2 August 2019, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) was in an urgent court hearing in Johannesburg. We were attempting to assist a woman, who was previously raped and kidnapped, to gain re-entrance into a gender-based violence shelter after being evicted.
The judge in the matter found that there was no urgency in this case and proceeded to strike the matter from the roll. This was despite the woman being rendered homeless. She had previously spent two evenings sleeping on a bench at Park Station.
In response to the judge’s decision, the shelter staff and employees from the Department of Community Safety (the government department running the shelter) present at the hearing celebrated their successful eviction of another woman from the gender-based violence shelter on the second day of Women’s month.
CALS has acted and continues to act on behalf of at least 15 women (many of whom also have children) to defend their imminent evictions from the shelter. The issue that arises is that the shelter does not adhere to the law around evictions in our country and unlawfully evicts women and their children, which either forces them to go and live on the streets or return to their abusers.
The law already acknowledges that shelters are considered as homes, and no one may be evicted from their home without a court order. This is supported by cases like Metropolitan Evangelical Services NPC v Goge and Dladla v City of Johannesburg which state that section 26 of the Constitution as well as the Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act and the Unlawful Occupation of Land Act both apply to shelters. Even in light of these precedents, the shelter continues to unlawfully evict women and their children without a court order.