Homeless shelter's R500m lawsuit against eThekwini removed from the roll for now

2019-11-25 20:42
Homeless people continue to be marginalised. (Jenni Evans, News24, file)

Homeless people continue to be marginalised. (Jenni Evans, News24, file)

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A multimillion-rand High Court application brought by the Ark homeless shelter against the eThekwini Metro has been removed from the court roll, but the applicants have vowed to have their day in court.

"This matter is a sad state of affairs," Judge Anton van Zyl said in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, Durban, on Monday where the case was heard in front of a packed public gallery.

The case, involving some R530m, was removed from the roll because the Ark was deregistered and legally could not be considered one of the parties in the case.

Judge Van Zyl, however, cautioned: "There is a misconception that striking and removing from the roll is the same thing. When you strike off the roll, it is a displeasure of court. Removing from the roll means it can be re-enrolled at any time."

Appearing on behalf of the Ark shelter and many homeless people who attended proceedings, Dr Peter Munn, who is not a litigator, declared there was a barrage of injustice by the City.

The homeless were evicted from the shelter in 2004 to make way for the upmarket multimillion-rand Point waterfront development.

The Ark was promised R10m as part of its deal to move. However, well over a decade later, none of the funds have been used for the homeless.

Years later, the building is still standing with no development at the site.

Helping the homeless

Munn told the court the Ark property had fed the most vulnerable in society.

"There is no respect or compassion for the people thrown into 550 squatter camps around the city. The City would rather build stadiums."

Munn said it had made millions in interest from the funds.

"They are justifying that they are capable of keeping the money. This cannot be so. They have stolen the money," he charged.

Appearing for the City, advocate JP Broster was shot down almost immediately by Judge Van Zyl after he attempted to argue that the finance department should take ownership of the funds because the Ark was legally deregistered.

To this, Judge Van Zyl said: "This cannot happen. The law does not allow the finance department to step into the shoes of a company."

Munn promised he would be back in court to continue the fight.

"We will amend our documents and come back."

'See you in three years'

Following court proceedings, Broster, while leaving and in earshot of the many homeless in the gallery, implied proceedings would not commence again for some time.  

"Alright folks, I guess we'll see you in another three years."

Responding to the comment, Munn said: "He should be struck off the roll."

Read more on:    durban  |  courts
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