eviction - Johannesburg - lay litigant - direct access - Constitutional Court
In this matter, SERI represents Kabelo Betlane who is appealing to the Constitutional Court against five orders of the South Gauteng High Court. The orders were granted against him whilst he was litigating as a 'lay litigant' i.e. in person and without legal representation.
The first order evicted Mr Betlane from his home; the second order dismissed his application to reverse the execution of the eviction order, which was carried out unlawfully, while his application for leave to appeal it was pending; the third, fourth and fifth orders dismissed his attempts to appeal or rescind the first two orders, and restrained him from approaching the High Court again before he had satisfied various costs orders granted against him.
The case was heard before the Constitutional Court on 24 August 2010. SERI argued that none of the above orders should have been granted. It was submitted that the manner in which Mr Betlane was treated by the High Court was inappropriate, taking into account the fact that he was a lay litigant seeking to vindicate constitutional rights.
On 24 November 2010, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in the Betlane case. In a unanimous judgment, written by Mogoeng J, the Court dismissed the application for direct access to set aside a series of orders restraining the applicant from approaching the High Court and the SCA to challenge an eviction order, because the orders had been abondoned by the respondent (Shelly Court) shortly before the hearing. It also dismissed the application for leave to appeal against the eviction order itself.
However the Court did set aside a writ of execution on which Mr Betlane was evicted from his home. This was because an earlier appeal against the eviction order was still pending at the time the writ was issued and because the writ was issued by the registrar in the absence of a court order authorising interim execution of the eviction. Such an order is required by Rule 49 (12) of the Uniform Rules of Court. Mr Betlane was declared the successful party, and the respondent was ordered to pay all disbursements incurred by SERI during the period of its legal representation.