Ekurhuleni abiding by Bapsfontein ruling
Johannesburg - The City of Ekurhuleni will form a task team to comply with a Constitutional Court order to find new land for people the city moved from a dolomitic site in Bapsfontein last year.
"The municipality has already taken some steps to implement the court's ruling, and these include intensifying the search for alternative land," said mayoral spokesperson Zweli Dlamini on Wednesday.
On Tuesday the Constitutional Court ruled that the council had acted unlawfully and violated residents' rights when it used Section 55 of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) and moved the residents without a court order, as required by section 26(3) of the Constitution.
The city had submitted that they had been moved because the geology of the area makes it prone to sinkholes, and dangerous, so in terms of the act, a court order was not required.
The Constitutional Court ordered the city to find suitable land for permanently resettling the evacuated residents by December 2012.
Dlamini said the city was pleased that the court did not rule that they had to be returned to the land, because it was considered dangerous.
After studying Tuesday's judgment, the city decided to establish an internal task team to deal with the "nitty gritties" of the move.
Last November the 25ha Bapsfontein informal settlement was declared a disaster area.
The council commissioned relocation contractors, the "Red Ants" to dismantle the approximately 3 000 residents' properties, move them and their belongings to temporary sites in Putfontein and Mayfield, Benoni, and rebuild their homes there, said Dlamini.
The relocation started in December 2010 and was supposed to have been completed in February 2011, but was delayed by bad weather. It was completed by March 2011, he said.
About 700 people objected to their removal and launched a court challenge, hence the Constitutional Court judgment.
Dlamini said during the December removals those using plastic for their shelters were given corrugated iron instead while their houses were rebuilt.
Communal taps and portable toilets were brought in, and a clinic was started. Visible policing was introduced and buses were provided to take children to school.
"We had to dig into our own coffers," he said, explaining that the process was paid for by the metro's own rates and services revenue.
"It's not about the municipality, it's about making sure our people are provided with the best living conditions we can get," he said.
No one lived on the old site, he said. Once the city had identified a piece of land, it would consult the applicants.
The friend of the court, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA, argued that the circumstances of the "unlawful eviction" did not warrant evacuation under the DMA.