eviction - Ratanang informal settlement - Klerksdorp - North Gauteng High Court
SERI represents 380 households (comprising approximately 1 000 people) living at the Ratanang informal settlement, located on an abandoned farm on the outskirts of Klerksdorp. The owners of the farm, supported by Afriforum, applied for an eviction order for the residents in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from, and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 (PIE Act). Afriforum has argued that the eviction is in "the public interest."
On 13 May 2013 the North Gauteng High Court handed down an order directing the City of Matlosana to compile a survey of all the occupiers, and to submit a comprehensive report to the court indicating where and when it would be able to provide the occupiers with alternative accommodation, and the nature of this accommodation. On 15 August the City submitted a report, stating that it does not have the financial or physical resources to accommodate the occupiers.
The residents argue that all but 40 people at Ratanang are occupiers in terms of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 (ESTA), because they were either given the consent of the current owner's father to reside on the farm, or moved onto it after he died and the current owner left it fallow. On 6 September 2013, SERI filed an answering affidavit on behalf of the Ratanang residents and filed an application for the North West MEC for Human Settlements and the Premier of the North West to be joined to the proceedings. This case will potentially be important in defining what sort of consent is required to ground a case in terms of ESTA.
The case was heard on 25 March 2014, where an order by agreement was granted. The order joins the the MEC and the Premier to the proceedings, and orders them to file a report setting out what steps they have taken and will in future take to provide the residents with suitable alternative accommodation. The order also requires the City of Matlosana 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 the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Policy contained in the National Housing Code, 2009, or in terms of its own land acquisition programmes. The court ordered the City, by no later than 30 May 2014, to file a report dealing with the identification of land for the relocation of the residents. Importantly, the court also found that a number of the residents at Ratanang are ESTA occupiers, and therefore dismissed the application to evict them. This means that they can either stay where they are, or they can take advantage of the alternative accommodation if and when it materialises.
In July 2014 an interim order was handed down requiring the City to pay a rental of R6 000 per month to the owner, for a period of 30 months. The application was postponed to 6 October 2014.
On 8 October 2014 the High Court handed down a structural order in terms of which the eviction application is postponed until 9 February 2015, and the municipality must convene a local steering committee in terms of Annexure D of the Emergency Housing Programme in the National Housing Code. This programme makes provision for the process to be followed in the relocation of large communities. The steering committee would be tasked with implementing a plan of action to be followed by the parties to the application, as well as the occupiers, on the proposed relocation site. This plan will deal with the details of how and over what period the relocation will be facilitated. The parties will also need to discuss and deal with the provision of vacant land with access to basic services to the occupiers of the settlement, who will be relocated to land at Alabama Ext 5.
In terms of the structural order, the municipality must deliver bi-monthly reports to the court detailing the progress that has been made in terms of the plan that has been put in place by the committee. The purpose of the order is to give specificity to the municipality’s proposal of alternative land, which was tendered on 18 July 2014. By insisting on specific timeframes, the municipality will be obliged to comply within the period stipulated in the order and will have to report on the progress made before the return date or it will risk being held in contempt.