Victory for KZN shackdwellers
Shackdwellers clinched victory in the Durban High Court on Monday when the court ruled against a proposed scheme to evict them.
The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works’ application to appeal the court’s decision to disallow the eviction of inhabitants of 1568 properties throughout the eThekwini Municipality was dismissed with costs.
The broad scope of the MEC’s scheme and his department’s failure to notify the vast majority of the individuals who would face eviction was cited as the main reason for the decision.
The case has a complex history: Activist grouping Abahlali baseMjondolo was admitted by the Constitutional Court as an amicus curiae‚ “friend of the court”‚ in January 2014‚ in a case concerning the interpretation of an interim interdict obtained by the KZN MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works from Koen J in the Durban High Court in March 2013. The case (Zulu and 389 others vs eThekwini Municipality) was brought by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) on behalf of 390 occupiers living on property in Lamontville‚ known as Madlala Village.
The order gave the municipality the power to prevent “illegal occupation” of land throughout the municipality.
Abahlali‚ with thousands of members with an interest in any case dealing with the validity of the MEC’s order‚ joined the issue.
The Constitutional Court found‚ in February 2014‚ that the interim order “amounted to an eviction order”‚ and that the municipality had used the order to evict people. The municipality argued that the order could not and was not used to evict people‚ even though it had relied on the order to evict the appellants 25 times. The Court stated that this dishonest submission was “unacceptable”.
The case was then referred to the Durban High Court.
Another case‚ the “Mximela” case‚ in which Abahlali had an interest‚ was consolidated with the Zulu case‚ and the case was heard in the Durban High Court in May 2015. There‚ Abahlali and the residents argued that the interdict would authorise the eviction of thousands of people living on 1 568 properties throughout the municipality without being given notice.
In August 2015 the presiding Judge set aside the interim order‚ and refused to amend it in the manner requested by the MEC. The Judge also granted costs against the MEC.
The MEC applied for leave to appeal in the Durban High Court. On Monday‚ the court considered whether the MEC’s scheme had prospects for success in an appellate court. The Socio-economic Rights Institute (SERI)‚ acting for Abahlali‚ argued that the MEC’s plan‚ if implemented‚ would give authorisation to carry out thousands of illegal evictions without court orders.
The court on Monday ruled against the MEC‚ finding that the scheme had no prospects for success because of the broad scope of the order and its failure to notify the vast majority of individuals who would face eviction.
Lwazi Mtshiyo of SERI said: “Today’s judgment affirms a basic principle of the right to housing: that evictions require notice and the opportunity to be heard.”