Schubart residents: Court restored dignity

2012-10-09 18:25
Metro police officers evict people from Schubart Park. (Picture: Sapa)

Metro police officers evict people from Schubart Park. (Picture: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Evicted residents of the Schubart Park flats in Pretoria central were elated on Tuesday after the Constitutional Court ruled that their removal was illegal.

Schubart Park Residents' Committee spokesperson Mashao Chauke said the court ruling had provoked intense, mixed emotions from the evicted people.

"Whilst others celebrated the court victory, some thought of our friends and relatives who have died as a result of the forced removals," he said.

"Around 30 of our people have succumbed to stress-related illnesses ever since we were evicted. Doctors' reports indicate that those who died were severely stressed," said Chauke.

He said the "brutal" evictions undertaken by the City of Tshwane, which owned the complex, would be reversed.

"This victory stops the local government from punishing poor people using evictions," he said.

"It also means that people can't be evicted to make way for expensive shopping complexes; we have enough malls around town," said Chauke.

On Tuesday, the court ordered the City of Tshwane and the residents to "engage meaningfully with one another and to report to the high court on their progress".

"It is now more than a year after the residents were removed from their homes. Finding out who they were, where they are, and what they still need to re-occupy their homes, [that] will require co-operation between them and the city," part of the judgment read.

"The residents are entitled to the occupation of their homes as soon as is reasonably possible," read another part of the ruling.

The metro municipality was ordered to pay the residents' costs in the high court (for earlier litigation processes) and in the Constitutional Court.

The court set aside earlier orders of the high court, made in September 2011, and of the Supreme Court.

Following the September evictions, the residents unsuccessfully approached the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria seeking an urgent court order against the City of Tshwane.

The order would have allowed them to re-occupy the complex.

The high court dismissed their application, but ordered the municipality to offer alternative accommodation.

The residents then sought leave to appeal against the decision and the judgment of the high court. The high court and Supreme Court of Appeal refused the applicants leave to appeal the judgment.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court upheld their appeal.

The municipality had argued that the complex was an unsafe living environment, an opinion that was based on expert advice.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (SERI) also entered the legal battle as a friend of the court.

SERI argued that the removal of the residents was unlawful and that the city had not provided enough alternative accommodation.

- SAPA

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