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Joburg inner city residents win their battle against eviction

By TMG Digital | 2017-05-20 11:44:08.0

The Johannesburg High Court has set aside an eviction order granted against 84 men‚ women and children living at 8 O’Reilly Street‚ Hillbrow‚ in Johannesburg’s inner city‚ the Socio-economic Rights Institute (SERI) said.

It said the Court held that the eviction order should not have been made without the City of Johannesburg being part of the proceedings. The City is obliged to ensure that the eviction of the community would not result in homelessness.

The High Court was considering the residents’ appeal against an order evicting them from their homes made by Justice Victor in 2014. The residents attended court in person to oppose the eviction‚ and said in their affidavits that the City should be joined to the proceedings to help resolve the eviction case. Justice Victor held that the residents had failed to specify what role the City should play in the case. Justice Victor refused to join the City‚ and evicted the residents.

On appeal‚ Justice Francis‚ with whom Justice Nicholls and Justice Makhanya agreed‚ held that Justice Victor erred in failing to join the City to the proceedings‚ because there were indications on the papers submitted by the property owner that the eviction might trigger the City’s obligations to provide temporary shelter to the residents. That being so‚ Justice Victor should have joined the City and ordered it to submit a report setting out the steps it would take to stop the residents from becoming homeless on eviction.

Justice Francis upheld the residents’ appeal‚ set aside the eviction order‚ joined the City to the proceedings and directed it to file a report on the occupiers and their circumstances within 30 days.

Thulani Nkosi‚ the SERI attorney acting for the residents said: “It is unfortunate that many eviction orders are still made against people who stand to become homeless‚ without the relevant local authority being joined to the proceedings and held to account for its duty to provide temporary shelter. Today’s judgment underscores that courts must be vigilant in protecting the poor and vulnerable people from being left out on the streets after an eviction. The pain and hopelessness experienced by those unable to house themselves after an eviction is something that no decent society should tolerate. Our Constitution requires everyone to be treated with care and concern. Justice Francis’ ruling hardwires the dignity of the poor into the legal process‚ and is to be welcomed.”