QwaQwa farm evictions 'violated human rights'

2014-09-23 19:31
SAHRC (Picture: Sapa)

SAHRC (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The mass eviction of hundreds of residents who lived on a farm in QwaQwa, Free State, by the municipality earlier this year, was a violation of their human rights, the SAHRC said on Tuesday.

SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) spokesperson Isaac Mangena said the commission found that the rights of residents had been violated during the eviction process.

Maluti a Phofung local municipality evicted the residents on 11 June. Mangena said the commission was alerted of the municipality's plans on 10 June.

"The residents were, according to the municipality, 'unlawfully occupying' the remainder of farm Bluegumbosch 199, Ha Tshohanyane, Bokamoso in QwaQwa," Mangena said.

The eviction followed the Constitutional court's decision to dismiss the application for leave to appeal made on behalf of Bokamoso residents.

The application was dismissed on the basis that it bore no prospects of success, Mangena said.

The eviction was initially ordered by the Free State High Court on 17 August 2012.

The matter was brought to the commission by Chief of the Mabolela traditional council, Morena Tsolo Mopeli, who sought the commission's intervention in order to halt the eviction process.

This was until a comprehensive assessment of the needs of the residents, their details and personal circumstances, the impact of the eviction on vulnerable groups, the provision of adequate alternative accommodation by the municipality, and meaningful engagement with the residents was conducted.

The commission found that the municipality:

- Had violated the right to the human dignity of the evicted people by providing them with inadequate and unsanitary sanitation facilities;

- Violated their right to adequate housing by failing to provide sufficient alternative accommodation which was habitable, accessible and located in close proximity to public amenities and job opportunities; and

- Failed to sufficiently discuss the consequences of eviction, including alternative accommodation and relocation and the general lack of information about future resettlement plans, with the community;

The commission recommended that:

- The municipality provide the evicted people with adequate alternative accommodation where they could live without the threat of another eviction, and with access to basic services within three months from the date of this finding;

- The municipality furnish the commission with a permanent relocation plan for the people within three months of the finding; and

- The municipality be more transparent and enhance its community participation by convening regular feedback sessions related to adequate housing, every three months;

Mangena said the municipality was urged to apply to the provincial department of human settlements for provision of emergency housing funding, to alleviate the plight of the evicted persons who had been rendered homeless.

The commission also recommended that a full social impact assessment of evictions on vulnerable and marginalised groups in the province be conducted by the department within a year.

Mangena said the department was also directed to develop a human rights-based approach and plan to evictions, "to guide municipalities in the province" within a year.

A copy of the report would be submitted to the commission for review.

Read more on:    sahrc  |  bloemfontein  |  housing  |  human rights

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