The High Court has ordered the City of Johannesburg to accommodate 257 men, women and children who were yesterday evicted from Fattis Mansions at 66 Harrison Street, Johannesburg.
The residents of the property initially asked the High Court at an urgent hearing convened yesterday at 7pm, to return them to Fattis Mansions so that they could challenge the eviction order granted against them. Justice van der Linde ordered the City to accommodate the residents overnight while he considered his judgment. The City did not comply with that order, and residents spent the night out in the cold.
This morning Justice van der Linde refused to restore the residents to Fattis Mansions, on the basis that the property is not safe for occupation. The Judge nonetheless directed the City to provide the residents with emergency accommodation immediately, and more durable temporary accommodation within a week.
As of 3pm on 20 July 2017, the City had not complied with either of his orders, both of which required the City to act immediately to accommodate the residents.
Today SERI launches a new set of legal and practical guidelines on relocation to alternative accommodation, entitled Relocation to Alternative Accommodation: Legal and Practical Guidelines.
Relocations have the potential to severely disrupt peoples’ lives and negatively impact their livelihoods, community relations and sense of security. To make sure this doesn’t happen, the relocation process should be carefully planned, well-run and participatory.
SERI developed this set of guidelines to assist those involved in the relocation process to navigate the complexities involved in planning for and carrying out a relocation. The guidelines present an approach to relocations based on SERI’s experience in planning and managing relocations to alternative housing and draw on international and local experience. The guidelines offer practical guidance on how to ensure that relocations are carried out in a way that respects the constitutional rights of the people being relocated.
The Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) was adopted to protect farm dwellers. It recognises that their rights to live on commercial farmlands are precarious and seeks to promote long-term security of tenure. Evictions, if they happen, must be just, equitable and accompanied by the provision of “suitable alternative accommodation”. But the Constitutional Court failed to deploy the text of the statute, and decided that "near enough is good enough".
Stuart Wilson writes that this "is seldom true for poor and vulnerable people, whose lives often depend on a delicate, geographically particularised network of jobs and social services."
On 12 July SERI candidate attorney, Lwazi Mtshiyo, was interviewed on SABC Newsroom, where he discussed the recent groundbreaking Constitutional Court judgment in Occupiers of Erven 87 & 88 Berea v De Wet and Another ('Kiribilly').
Last week, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights delivered its decision in the case of M.B.D. et al. v. Spain (Communication No. 5/2015). In its decision, the Committee emphasised that evictions should not render individuals or families homeless and that States party are under an obligation to provide suitable alternative accommodation to individuals or families that would be rendered homeless during an eviction. In addition, the Committee stated that these legal protections apply to people living in rental accommodation (whether public or private).
On this basis, the Committee found that Spain had violated the right to housing of the complainants by not taking all appropriate measures to the maximum of its available resources to guarantee suitable alternative accommodation after their eviction.
SERI’s co-founder and chairperson, Jackie Dugard, contributed to an intervention in the case as part of the International Network on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net)’s Strategic Litigation Working Group. The intervention contained arguments based on international and comparative approaches to the right of access to adequate housing.
The Committee's decision comes after the South African Constitutional Court recently held that evictions that lead to homelessness are unlawful and that judges must make sure that people under threat of eviction are properly informed of their rights to contest eviction proceedings and claim alternative accommodation.