On 20 December 2018, SERI, filed an application for special leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) against a Pretoria High Court judgment issued against Rachel Zwane, a 61 year old woman residing in Ennerdale. The judgment, issued on 28 November 2018, suggests that it is permissible to prosecute unlawful occupiers, as defined by the PIE Act, for trespass.
Zwane lived with her two daughters and four grandchildren in a small house in Ennerdale outside of Johannesburg since early 2001. She purchased the house with the assistance of a mortgage bond in 2001. Zwane lost her job in 2008 when her employer of 20 years ceased trading, she struggled to keep up with her mortgage bond payments and fell into arrears. Without receiving proper notice, her bank sold her home in execution. The new owner of the property sought and obtained a default eviction order against her. Again, Zwane received no notice of the eviction application, or of the date of the eviction hearing. The first time Zwane became aware of the eviction proceedings was when she was actually forcibly evicted from her home in May 2012.
Left on the street by her house, she, her two children, and four grandchildren, had nowhere else to go. In their desperation, one of Zwane’s grandchildren climbed back into the house through a broken window and opened the front door of the house from the inside.
Three years later, in January 2016, Zwane was brought to trial on criminal charges of house breaking and trespass. The magistrate convicted her on the charge of trespass and acquitted her on the charge of house-breaking.
SERI, on behalf of Zwane, appealed her conviction in the Pretoria High Court. On 28 November 2018, the Gauteng Provincial Division of the High Court dismissed her appeal against the conviction and the sentence. SERI, on behalf of Zwane is appealing the case in the SCA arguing that the High Court has inappropriately placed its stamp of approval on a process which permits a person to be evicted from their home without notice, and then convicted of a criminal offence simply because they are too poor to find alternative accommodation.