isiQalo informal settlement - private owner - eviction application - Western Cape High Court

In this matter, Stuart Wilson of SERI is instructed, together with Paul Kennedy SC, by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Cape Town to act for the 6 000 occupiers of isiQalo, an informal settlement near Mitchells Plein in Cape Town. IsiQalo was first occupied by a small number of people 7 years ago. But, starting in November 2011 with a spate of evictions from backyard shacks in informal settlements and townships in and around Philippi, isiQalo grew from just a few shacks to approximately 1 600-1 800 dwellings.

The owners of the land now bring an application for the eviction of isiQalo. Most of isiQalo is on land previously unused for well over a decade. This is land owned by Lyton Props. The reminder of the land was extensively quarried for sand until very recently. This is owned by Robert Ross. Robert Ross says that the occupiers have brought its quarrying business to a standstill. The occupiers say that they were actively assisted to occupy Robert Ross’ land as and when it finished quarrying the available sand. In any event, both Lyton Props and Robert Ross now say that they are willing to sell or lease their land to the City of Cape Town, or to be expropriated by it.

For its part, the City says it will do nothing in the foreseeable future. It says that the residents are "land invaders", that its housing policies and plans are set in stone, and that the occupiers should not be “rewarded” for invading land. This attitude is obviously substantially out of step with the case law on these issues. The occupiers asking for an order that allows them to remain in occupation of their homes until alternative land has been made available to them by the City or another organ of state. They also want the order direct the City to take all the administrative and other steps necessary to identify land to accommodate the residents lawfully, either in terms of Emergency Housing Programme or in terms of its own land acquisition programmes.

The case was argued on 29-30 May and 3 June in the Western Cape High Court. On 3 June, an order was agreed by all the parties. It states that the residents of isiQalo will remain in occupation of their homes pending a further order by the court. The following parties are now joined to the proceedings: the Minister of Human Settlements; Minister of Public Works; Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform; Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements; and Western Cape MEC for Public Works. Together with the City, they must provide reports to the court by no later than 2 September 2013. These reports must detail what vacant, unused national, provincial and City land exists in the City of Cape Town's jurisdiction, and whether or not it is suitable and available for emergency housing for the residents (if not, reasons for this must be provided). The owners and residents may also provide information on any vacant land in the City's jurisdiction which they think is suitable and available for emergency housing.

  • Supplementary written submissions on the joinder of the national Ministers (23 October 2013) here.
  • Judgment (3 June 2013) here.
  • Order agreed by the parties (3 June 2013) here.
  • City of Cape Town's heads of arguments (20 May 2013) here.
  • Occupiers' heads of arguments (13 May 2013) here.
  • Table of authorities (13 May 2013) here.