Johannesburg not unreasonable, ConCourt finds
Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court has dismissed an application to force the City of Johannesburg to say what its plans are to relocate a group of residents from a private property in Saratoga Avenue.
"The application is dismissed. There is no order as to costs and reasons will be furnished later," said Judge Zac Yacoob.
Lawyers for the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals) were too stunned to comment and said they would issue a statement later. The lawyer for the city would not comment.
On December 1 2011, the court ordered that the occupiers vacate their homes on industrial land owned by a company called Blue Moonlight on Saratoga Avenue by April 15 this year.
The court ruled that the city's housing policy was unconstitutional because it had not budgeted for, or made allowance for, emergency accommodation.
Cals, worried that they had received no details on the process of the move ahead of Sunday's deadline, put in an urgent application for more information and a two-month extension to the original deadline.
The city denied it was being unreasonable in not saying sooner what it was doing to comply with a Constitutional Court order to temporarily house them, it said in an affidavit filed for the urgent application.
"I deny that the city’s conduct is either unreasonable or unlawful," said Pieter de Klerk, the city's deputy director: legal and compliance.
The city said in its affidavit that the December order stated that the city must provide the occupiers of Saratoga Avenue, listed on a survey done on April 30 2008, with temporary accommodation on or before April 1, 2012. Everybody had to be out of the property by April 15.
It must also devise a mechanism to deal with applications for temporary accommodation by numerous other people facing eviction in Johannesburg.
The first obligation was "theoretically easier" than the second, and although bureaucracies were often criticised for being slow, whatever the city decides, may have a broad impact.
Since early December, the city had been working on complying with its obligation to house those on the survey who were still living on the property. It was also working out a way of dealing with other people facing eviction.
"Compliance has necessitated a redirection of resources and extensive negotiations around competing priorities," the city said.
However, it had identified accommodation to enable it to comply with the court order.
De Klerk said the survey in 2008 recorded 86 people. Of these, 53 were men, 28 woman, and five children.
"There are now 100 people resident at the property, none of whom are children," he said.
Sixty-four had gone through a registration process. There were now 45 people listed on the survey still on the property.
Fifty-five people living there were not listed on the survey, but alleged they were entitled to be accommodated through their relationship with a person listed on the survey -- either as partners, siblings or relatives.
The city contended that the Constitutional Court had "deliberately and appropriately" relied on the survey when making its order, instead of having to "chase a moving target".
"The impact on the first respondent and other local authorities of the obligation to provide temporary accommodation is massive, and country-wide probably numbers hundreds of thousands of people."
It was not about accommodating 86 or 100 people, but about planning a constitutionally acceptable policy, said De Klerk.
The city's eleventh hour proposal, made to Cals this week was: single individuals, earning R700 per month or more, would stay at the Linatex Building in dormitories with communal facilities and pay R350 a month for the bed.
Family units (mother, father and minor children) would stay in the MBV Building Phase 2, paying R600 per month per room.
Two individuals each with minor children could share this accommodation, but each adult must pay R600 a month rent per room.
Those with no income, or those who earned less than R700 per month, would stay at an inner city shelter. The city stressed there was a difference between the initial survey and the list of those registered.
"The honourable court did not order that those occupying through those on the list are entitled to temporary accommodation, and the city did not plan accordingly."
The court said it would give reasons later as to why it had dismissed the case.