urgent application - eviction - Gauteng Local Division of the High Court

This case concerns the residents of the MOTH Building in Johannesburg’s inner city. The residents of the building comprise of many people, including the former occupiers of various buildings such as Chancellor House, Chestnut Hill, Dinner Glass and BG Alexander. The latter were relocated by the City of Johannesburg (the City), in line with its constitutional obligations, to the MOTH Building.

Since the residents first arrived at the building in 2009 and 2010, they have consistently communicated their needs to the City regarding the conditions at the building.  Among other things, they took issue with the lack of partitioning for families and individuals inside the building; electricity outages and inadequate lighting in the building; flooding in the basement; safety in the building; as well as the gas leakage from the stoves in the kitchen.  Although the City would sometimes respond, no tangible change has been effected and the conditions at the building have seriously deteriorated.

Around May 2014, there was a fire on the third floor of the building which resulted in a tremendous loss for the families and individuals who lived on that floor.  As a result, some of the people who lived on the third floor were relocated to a building in Jeppestown and the City later renovated the third floor.

In May 2017, several people already residing on other floors of the Moth building constructed structures on the third floor.  As a result, the City launched an urgent application against them on 4 May 2017.  In terms of that application, the City sought an order directing the respondents to vacate the third floor and interdicting them from occupying the third floor without its permission.  The application also cited, as respondents, people who were not resident on the third floor.  Those residents opposed that application on the basis that they had been incorrectly included in the proceedings and that any court order granted in the matter could not be executed against them.

The matter was heard before Judge Mabesele on 9 May 2017 and was removed from the roll, with costs, to allow the City to supplement its papers and to re‑enrol the matter in urgent court.

On 17 May 2017, the City filed its supplementary papers in which it cited additional respondents.  The City now sought, among other things, the removal of people from the third floor and the eviction of “unlawful occupiers” from the building.  The papers were served on SERI and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (“CALS”) with just over 24 hours’ notice to consult with clients, draft answering papers – if any – and to appear in court.

The residents of the Moth Building who are represented by SERI and CALS opposed this application on various grounds, including that—

  • - the application was not urgent;
  • - the City had been unable to identify the people it sought to evict from the building;
  • - the persons represented by SERI and CALS were not the only lawful occupiers of the building;
  • - the application had not been served on the occupiers and the requirements of section 5(1) and (2) of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from, and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 had not been complied with; and
  • - the eviction of anyone in the building could not be just equitable as alternative accommodation had not been identified.

The matter was struck from the roll with costs as it lacked urgency.

  • High Court urgent order (17 May 2017) here.
  • Residents' answering affidavit (9 May 2017) here.
  • Residents' notice of intention to oppose (9 May 2017) here.
  • City's notice of motion and founding affidavit (5 May 2017) here.
  • Read more about the MOTH building relocation here.