refugee and migrant rights - eviction - contract - South Gauteng High Court

In this matter, SERI represents 88 people facing eviction from a temporary refugee shelter in Randfontein. The occupiers are all people displaced from their communities during the xenophobic attacks of May 2008. They were taken to the RIET shelter by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and promised that they would receive assistance to re-integrate into South African society or to resettle outside South Africa. The shelter failed to provide the assistance promised to the occupiers despite being contractually obliged to do so. These services included:

  • social assessment of their needs and ability to reintegrate, which would be identified in a review meeting set up with each of the respondents;
  • skills training, to assist them to find new jobs, as they had been hounded out of their old jobs and small businesses;
  • identification of a place or “safe socio-economic zone” into which they could resettle and reintegrate; and
  • psychological support and counselling.

The shelter received R1 338 200 to provide these services; however, save for one computer skills lesson, none of these services was provided. A few weeks after the residents arrived at the property, the director of the shelter began harassing them to leave, offering them a small cash sum to leave. The residents refused to do so, believing that it was both insufficient to rebuild their lives and not the assistance they had been promised.

The shelter then brought an eviction application against the residents. They occupiers responded by launching a counter-application, claiming specific performance of the applicant’s obligations under its contracts with the UNHCR. If the residents are evicted without the assistance the shelter was contracted to provide, they will be rendered homeless. Accordingly, and in the alternative to the specific performance claim, the residents seek an order joining Randfontein Municipality to the proceedings, so that they may claim relief against it in the form of suitable alternative accommodation. 

The counter-application was first set down on 7 August 2012; however at the applicant’s request, the matter was postponed by agreement to the opposed roll on 25 September 2012. The postponement was specifically to allow the applicant to comply with its obligations under section 4(2) of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from, and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998, before setting the eviction application down on the same date. The matter was finally set down for hearing on 7 November 2012 at 2pm in the South Gauteng High Court.

  • Supplementary heads of argument (7 November 2012) here.
  • Practice note (2 November 2012) here and short heads of argument (2 November 2012) here.
  • Notice of counter-application (13 January 2011) here.
  • Answering affidavit (13 January 2011) here.