Court victory for Durban shack dwellers

Amanda Khoza, News24

Durban - The president of a shack dwellers organisation has welcomed a High Court order that prevents authorities from evicting people without a court eviction order.

“This means that the evictions that took place between 2013 and 2014 in Cato Crest and Sisonke Village in Lamontville were carried out unlawfully," Abahlali baseMjondolo president Sbu Zikode said.

“It also means that Human Settlement MEC Ravi Pillay’s eviction order, which was basically an interdict used to evict people, was also unlawful.”

Zikode said this was a victory for all shack dwellers and homeless people around South Africa.

“It also means that the state will no longer continue to be a law unto itself. The government must respect people without adequate homes, because the law applies to all who live on the land.

'Illegal, immoral and criminal'

“All shack dwellers now have the right to resist and defend their homes if officials want to evict them without a High Court eviction order.

“If they evict you, it will be illegal, immoral and criminal. You must say no,” said Zikode.

On Thursday, Judge Fikile Mokgohloa handed down a judgment in a case against the KZN Human Settlement MEC, eThekwini Municipality and others.

The Socio Economic Rights Institute (SERI), which represented the organisation, said in a statement the judge struck down a temporary court order that had been used by the MEC and the municipality to evict thousands of poor people from informal settlements in Durban.

The MEC claimed that the order was used to prevent land invasions, but SERI argued “that the order was intended to progressively remove the occupants of more than 1 500 parcels of open land in Durban without having to follow normal court procedures or give notice to the occupants”.

National implications

Nomzamo Zondo, director of litigation at SERI said the judgment had national implications.

“It represents a significant step towards achieving a more just dispensation for people who feel the burden of inequality most in South Africa.”

Responding to the judgment, Pillay said he took land invasion seriously and the government would not abandon its constitutional responsibility to prevent it.

"While respecting all judgments, we disagree with certain factual conclusions in the judgment. It also seems that there is a difficulty in defining the dividing line between stopping land invasion and effecting an eviction...”

The United Front said it celebrates the judgment. “Until now the MEC has been using the interim interdict to evict hundreds of families using brutal police methods.

“Thanks to the dedicated struggle of Abahlali baseMjondolo, SERI and the Legal Resources Centre, this victory has been won,” said interim national secretary Mazibuko Jara.