The Constitutional Court today set aside the eviction of 184 residents of Kiribilly, a block of flats in Berea in Johannesburg’s inner city.
The judgment held that evictions that lead to homelessness are unlawful, even if they are agreed to by all of the residents who stand to be evicted. Further, judges must make sure that people under threat of eviction are properly informed of their rights to contest eviction proceedings and claim alternative accommodation. In addition, judges must proactively investigate the circumstances of all residents in order to properly assess the impact that an eviction will have on their lives and living circumstances.
The Court’s unanimous decision, written by Justice Mojapelo emphasised “the fundamental importance that a person’s home has to the realisation of almost all human rights”. Even where it seems a person has agreed to be evicted, a court is not permitted to order that eviction unless it is made aware of all the relevant circumstances, and is sure that no-one will be left homeless.
SERI's second newsletter of the year is out! The June 2017 edition covers, amongst others, our new resource guide for informal traders, advocacy for justice for the Marikana massacre, and some of the litigation we have done in support of communities facing evcition in Johannesburg's inner city, and against unfair dismissals of Western Cape farm workers.
Niren Tolsi writes in the Mail & Guardian about the arrest and detention of Napoleon Webster. Napoleon, a community activist very active in the Marikana area including in campaigning for housing and land rights, has been denied bail after being arrested for his alleged participation in the murder of a local councillor.
He has now spent 151 days in Rustenberg prison for what he describes as "political" reasons.
There is strong evidence that Mr Webster was arrested because of his activism and not on the basis of any reasonable suspicion that he has committed any offence. He is a vocal opponent of the African National Congress and is closely associated with Black First Land First and the Economic Freedom Fighters. He has been active in supporting the victims of the Marikana massacre and was a consistent presence at the marikana commission of inquiry's proceedings.
On behalf of Mr Webster, SERI has filed a notice to appeal the Magistrate's decision refusing to grant Mr Webster bail to the North West High Court.
On 2 June 2017, at least 100 people living on land under a bridge in Newtown that is currently owned by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) faced an eviction.
Legalbrief quotes SERI in their newsletter about the City of Johannesburg intervening on behalf of PRASA evictees:
The City of Johannesburg has obtained an order from the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) allowing occupiers in Newtown to return to land owned by Prasa after they were evicted on Friday. A Mail & Guardian Online report says the evictions were carried out by the Red Ants on the basis of a High Court order, which stipulated that an eviction can take place only if the City provides ‘all deserving unlawful occupiers’ with alternative accommodation. The court instructed the City to file a report about the accommodation, when it will be available, and ‘an undertaking to make that accommodation available’. The City subsequently failed to abide by the order because it did not provide accommodation itself as the court had ordered. Stuart Wilson, of the Socio-Economic Rights Institution, said the eviction on Friday was illegal because the court order allowing it to take place was suspended. ‘These people shouldn’t be evicted without alternative accommodation being provided,’ Wilson said.
Using the case of the occupiers of Chung-Hua Mansionshe occupiers of Chung-Hua Mansions as an example, SERI's Keaton Allen-Gessesse and Lwazi Mtshiyo write on the harms of gentrification in Johannesburg's city centre. They illustrate how, in the face of gentrification, urban poor people can "strategically use the law to the keep a roof over their heads" to resist their displacement and eviction.