Lwandle’s poor must have their dignity restored

2014-10-27 15:00

The eviction of the people of Lwandle in Nomzamo, Strand, near Cape Town, on June 2 occurred on one of the coldest days of the year.

The Metro police, assisted by the SA Police Service (SAPS), descended on the informal settlers and threw out their meagre belongings into the harsh elements, ensuring an uncertain fate for the people who lived there.

The informal settlers had been evicted from the same spot in Lwandle on February 3. They subsequently came back in large numbers.

The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), which owned the occupied land, applied and received an interim interdict forbidding further land invaders from coming to Lwandle. Instead, it used the interim interdict to effect an eviction in February and in June.

“The inquiry?…?finds that the interim interdict did not empower the police to assist in effecting the eviction on 2 and 3 June 2014.”

The inquiry further found that “the actions of the POP [public order police] was unjustified in that having given the community 10 minutes to disperse, action was taken against the community without justification before the 10 minutes had lapsed”.

In respect of Sanral, the inquiry found the roads agency could have known that the chances of securing an urgent eviction order were slim given the fact that there was no alternative land for the community and no meaningful engagement had taken place with the community, hence the use of an interim interdict as if it was an eviction order.

The inquiry also found that Sanral had “failed to take reasonable steps to protect its land.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the site had been invaded previously, Sanral failed to monitor and secure the property after it regained control of the site pursuant to the eviction on 3 February 2014.”

In relation to the conduct of the sheriff, the inquiry found that “the sheriff effected the eviction?...?without an eviction order, and?…?failed to ensure that the property of the evictees that was removed from the site was properly marked and registered”.

The conduct of the sheriff was found to have been grossly negligent and unlawful. The “sheriffs are guilty of improper conduct in terms of section 43(1) (a) of the [Sheriff] Act, if they are negligent in the execution of any court process”.

This abuse of power could be widely prevalent in many other cases that have not received the same public focus as Lwandle did.

Regarding the role of the City of Cape Town, the inquiry found the City had set in motion the unlawful eviction by triggering Sanral, by way of a letter, instructing them to evict the people of Lwandle. The City worked very closely with Sanral in the process of applying and subsequently obtaining the interim interdict on January 24.

“The inquiry finds that, given the illegal eviction of the affected community, the [City of Cape Town] failed in the circumstances in its duties as an organ of state to respect, protect or promote the fundamental rights of its citizens. Specifically, its citizens’ rights of access to adequate housing, not to be evicted without a court order, to dignity and shelter.”

This is why the City and the DA-controlled province refused to appear before the inquiry, opting instead to send written representations. What is lamentable is the collusion of state institutions in an illegal and unlawful act against the poor.

Ka Plaatjie is adviser to Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and head of ANC research

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