Bapsfontein eviction declared unlawful
Johannesburg - The eviction of over 700 people from dolomitic land in Bapsfontein, Gauteng, without a court order was declared unlawful by the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.
The court ordered the Ekurhuleni metro to find suitable land for the residents to resettle on by December 2012.
Last December, the metro invoked the Disaster Management Act (DMA) to remove the residents after an investigation in the area into sinkholes.
Almost 38 people have died in Gauteng over the last 50 years due to sinkholes.
Dolomite ground makes up a quarter of Gauteng, stretching from Westonaria in the west, Centurion in the north and Thokoza in the east.
About 110 informal settlements are on dolomitic land in Gauteng and damage to development and infrastructure due to dolomite is estimated at about R1.5bn.
It is mostly caused by human activity such as farming which drops the water table, or water running out of leaking or burst pipes.
The residents of Bapsfontein submitted that the metro's actions violated their rights against eviction from their homes, or demolition of their homes without an order of court, under section 26(3) of the Constitution, as well as their right to human dignity under section 10 of the Constitution.
The metro submitted that the applicants were evacuated under the DMA and that the evacuation did not amount to an eviction and thus a court order was not required.
The friend of the court, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, argued that the circumstances of the "eviction" did not warrant evacuation under the DMA, but required compliance with section 26 of the Constitution and laws governing eviction.