Waste pickers face imminent eviction in Centurion
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While a bleak New Year awaits a group of Centurion waste pickers or recyclers as it is unknown where they will stay next year, the City of Tshwane was ordered by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to report to the court whether there was emergency housing available for them.
Lawyers for Human Rights opposed an urgent application on behalf of the recyclers as they are facing imminent eviction from their homes where they have lived for periods ranging from a few weeks to over 16 years.
Their accommodation is made of modest shelters constructed out of plastic sheets and cardboard. They occupy a small portion of land located on West Avenue just opposite the SuperSport Park cricket stadium in Centurion.
The property is also known as Mushroomville or the old mushroom farm. Turnover Trading 191 (Pty) Ltd, the owner of the property, has brought an application against the City of Tshwane to declare that Tshwane has breached its constitutional obligations towards the property owners and towards the recyclers.
The owner ultimately wants the about 140 recyclers off the property.
The second part of the application, which will be heard later, sought an eviction order against the recyclers.
Turnover Trading’s argument is that Tshwane’s failure to secure alternative accommodation for the recyclers is a violation of the recyclers’ constitutional rights to access to adequate housing in terms of of the constitution.
LHR’s said this case is not simply about whether emergency accommodation will be provided once an eviction order is granted. It is about the livelihoods of dozens of desperate people who have migrated internally and from neighbouring countries.
“Recyclers are entrepreneurs who are trying to make a living and they will naturally reside near places with high economic activity and where their clientele can easily access their services,” said Louise du Plessis of LHR.
They collect recyclable waste from households and small to medium industries on a daily basis. She said budgets, policies and by-laws of municipalities such as the City of Tshwane have adopted an anti-poor stance towards people such as the Mushroomville recyclers.
“Municipalities fail to address their needs and it is disappointing that they make every effort to try and push them out of the metropolitan city centres.”
The recyclers have tried numerous times to engage with Tshwane to the point of submitting a written proposal on how to support their activities.
The landowner turned to court fearing that the number of recyclers will grow by the day. Fears for their safety due to flash floods was also expressed as the property is situated directly next to the Hennops River.
Judge J Stoop said municipalities had a duty to budget for emergency housing for the people in need. The landlord complained that the Tshwane municipality did not have a homeless policy or budget in place.
Advocate Adriaan Vorster, who appeared for the municipality, conceded this. It was said that the City would deal with these matters as and when it arose.
Judge Stoop commented that this may be so, but he said the City still had to plan for these eventualities. In this case, he said, the City failed in its duty towards these waste pickers.
He said before the second leg of the application - eviction - was to be heard by the court, the City had to file a report with the court as to what their plans are with these people.
The judge gave the City until January 29 to file the report, which had to precisely set out, with supporting documents, what it's availability of emergency housing was. The judge also wanted to know whether these waste pickers would become homeless if they were evicted from this property.
“The City must attend to this report on an urgent basis,” the judge ordered.