Court dismisses squatter gripes

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

The KwaZulu-Natal department of housing has scored a court victory for pioneering the Slums Act.

Yesterday, in a landmark judgment that could have far-reaching implications for the housing sector in South Africa, the Judge President of KwaZulu-Natal Justice Vuka Tshabalala dismissed an application by Abahlali Basemijondolo and ruled in favour of the department.

The application had been brought against Premier S'bu Ndebele and the MEC for local government, housing and traditional affairs, Mike Mabuyakhulu.

The applicants argued that the Slums Act purported to regulate eviction, land tenure and access to land matters, issues which they said fall outside the legislative competence of the provincial government, thereby rendering the Slums Act unconstitutional.

The applicants had also argued that the Slums Act was in conflict with the provisions of the Housing Act and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act.

However, the court dismissed the application.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Tshabalala said the province must be applauded for attempting to deal with the problem of slums and slum conditions.

"This is the first province to have adopted legislation such as the Slums Act.

"The act makes things more orderly in the province and it must be given a chance to show off its potential to help deal with the problem of slums and slum conditions.

"This court cannot strike the act down before it has even been properly implemented," said Tshabalala.

Welcoming the judgment, Mabuyakhulu said his department had been vindicated.

"Since this piece of legislation was passed into law we have maintained that it was in the interest of the province.

"The province should be congratulated for having the foresight and the vision to nip the challenge of slums proliferation in the bud," he said.

Mabuyakhulu said despite fabrications and misinformation that it was aimed at destroying informal settlements in the province, he had always maintained that the act had noble intentions as it acknowledged the reality of existing informal settlements.

"The act was aimed at preventing the further mushrooming of slums," he said.

Mabuyakhulu said what was instructive about the judgment was that the court did not only rule in their favour but reaffirmed what the province has always been saying.

"We cannot sit back and do nothing while our people are living in squalid conditions."