In victory for the homeless court says ‘they too have rights’

A now homeless woman sits on what remains of her belongings. Picture: File

A now homeless woman sits on what remains of her belongings. Picture: File

Published Aug 31, 2023


Pretoria - In ruling that the recent series of evictions undertaken by the City of Johannesburg and its MMC for Human Settlements on homeless people – many of whom are women and children – is unlawful, the court reminded the authorities that these people also have rights.

Acting Judge Elmien du Plessis said: “These people have human rights as contained in the Bill of Rights and protected in the Constitution. Just because they are already living on the margins of society does not make them invisible social outcasts or nuisances, however much their presence may frustrate the respondents – the City and the MMC.” The families, known as the Rabie Ridge Community, have been staying for a number of years on land identified as the the Farm Allandale, near Ivory Park.

They have been subjected to numerous “evictions” by the City and their belongings, including their shacks, were destroyed on several occasions.

They turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, with the help of Lawyers for Human Rights, in in what they said was a bid to have a peaceful existence until the City earmarked land for them.

Judge Du Plessis not only declared the conduct of the City unlawful, but also ordered that it had to rebuild their shacks within 72 hours. If it failed to do this, the City had to fork out R1 500 per family, so that they could buy the necessary material to rebuild their shacks.

The City may not evict the families from the land until they have secured a lawful eviction order. They may also not in the meantime further harass the people, the judge said, in slapping the City and the MMC with a punitive costs order.

Louise du Plessis, manager for Land, Housing and Property Rights at Lawyers for Human Rights, said this ruling was not just a win for the residents of Farm Allandale, but a “clarion call to all entities”, reminding them of the human touch that is essential in dispensing justice.

“This victory serves as a testament to the resilience of communities and the critical role that organisations like Lawyers for Human Rights play in ensuring that justice is meted out fairly,” she said.

The community comprises 836 people, including adults and children. Backed by evidence in the form of pictures and videos, they showcased to the court the demolished dwellings and personal losses they had experienced due to the evictions.

Du Plessis said Lawyers for Human Rights hoped that this landmark ruling would not only prevent further unlawful evictions, but also serve as a reminder to all public bodies about their duty to uphold the Constitution, thereby promoting a more just and inclusive society.

Pretoria News