Cape Town lockdown evictions: R2 000 compensation, return of property among the court's orders

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(Jenni Evans, News24)
(Jenni Evans, News24)
  • The High Court has granted an urgent interdict to stop the City of Cape Town from evicting people who have occupied land without permission during the lockdown. 
  • The interdict means the City cannot evict people from structures without a court order. 
  • It intends appealing the interim order, saying it would "open the floodgates on illegal land invasions".

The Western Cape High Court has granted an urgent interdict to stop the City of Cape Town from evicting people who have occupied vacant land without permission during the lockdown. 

The judgment by judges Yasmin Meer and Rosheni Allie has set out conditions the City and police must abide by.

The next leg of the case is set to be heard in October when the SA Human Rights Commission intends arguing whether the City should provide temporary accommodation for those evicted in terms of a court order.

The application came after the widely publicised eviction of a naked Bulelani Qolani from his shack in Cape Town as well as evictions in Hangberg, Hout Bay, and Kommetjie Location in Ocean View during the lockdown.

The City intends appealing the decision, with Mayor Dan Plato contending in a statement it would open the floodgates to illegal land invasions, leading to a breakdown in law and order.

The mayco member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, told News24 the City had adhered to the law regarding evictions.

The judgment is being studied as the City believes it attempts to go further than the Constitution and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.

The police said they were studying the judgment before commenting on it.

This is what the court ordered on Tuesday
  • The City of Cape Town, its Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU), and any private contractors appointed by the City to do evictions or dismantle dwellings, are interdicted and restrained from evicting people from structures, whether occupied or unoccupied throughout the City metropole without a court order.
  • This includes tents, huts and shacks, whether occupied or not.
  • This while the state of disaster promulgated by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in terms of the Disaster Management Act remains in place, except in terms of an order of court duly obtained.
  • If the City does get a court order for an eviction, it must be done in a manner that is lawful and respects and upholds the dignity of the people to be evicted.
  • The City is prohibited from using excessive force, or from destroying or confiscating the materials which is the property of the evictees.
  • If an eviction or demolition is authorised by a court order, the police, when its members are present during an eviction or demolition, must make sure it is done lawfully and in line with the Constitution.
  • The City is interdicted and restrained from considering, adjudicating and awarding any bids or tenders received in response to Tender 308S/2019/20 "Demolition of illegal and informal structures in the City of Cape Town". This after the court was not given an affidavit on how officials are trained to decide which shack must be demolished and who must be evicted. The court referred to the decision-making as "guesses", and noted the tender contains incentives regarding how many structures are removed.
  • The City must return, within a week of the order (made on 25 August), all building materials and personal possessions seized by its ALIU from the housing association from 1 May 2020 to date. This after people, who tried to get their property back and hired a truck to do so, were turned away and told to return on another day.
  • The attorney for the "second intervening party" (the people who live on Erf 544, Portion 1 in Mfuleni, a provincial nature reserve) must compile a list of names of people claiming compensation for the sum of R2 000 each in lieu of loss of personal belongings.
  • The City must pay R2 000 to each person whose entitlement to compensation is agreed upon.
  • In the event of any disagreement by the City as to who is entitled to compensation once the list is presented, the parties may approach the court for relief.
  • The City must pay the cost of the application save for the costs of the postponement of the hearing on 25 July 2020.
  • Each party shall bear their own costs in respect of 25 July 2020, when an application to intervene was received and the case was deemed not ready to be heard yet.
  • The national commissioner of police, police minister and the Western Cape commissioner of police must bear the costs relating to their opposition regarding their role during evictions. They were supposed to ensure evictions and demolitions are done lawfully and in line with the Constitution, in accordance with the police's constitutional duty to protect the dignity of the people concerned.

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