South Africa : Durban High Court rules in favour of housing policy

By Proffesor Ndawonde

Pretoria - The Minister of Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu has described the Durban High Court ruling against Abahlali Basenjondolo Movement SA as a breakthrough in the implementation of the Breaking New Ground housing policy.

On Tuesday, Kwazulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Shabalala dismissed the movement's application against the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act of 2007.

On May 2008, the movement asked the High Court to declare the legislation unconstitutional and in conflict with other housing legislation. It argued that the legislation was inhumane and would lead to random and inhumane evictions of homeless people by the government.

The application was brought against the Minister Sisulu, the Minister of Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sibusiso Ndebele and the MEC of Housing and Local Government, Mike Mabuyakhulu.

Responding to the ruling Minister Sisulu said the judgment laid a legal framework for fast tracked housing delivery through the implementation of the Breaking New Ground (BNG) Policy.

"Since the launch of the BNG policy, all provinces have worked hard to develop policies to eradicate informal settlements.

"This judgment will allow them to speedily finalise legislation on how as government we can manage the process of eradicating informal settlements, stopping their re-emergence," the Minister said.

She said the perception that the Slum Act would lead to random evictions, was unfounded and as evident in all pilot projects of BNG, the government implement in consultation with all stakeholders.

"We have always believed that the BNG fundamental approach of eradicating informal settlements was constitutional and for the best interest of all poor people, this ruling allows us to proceed to eradicate informal settlements by 2014 in partnership with all stakeholders, she said.

The minister added that the judgment would allow provinces and municipalities to strengthen their relationships with informal settlement dwellers and their organisations on how they can work together to build integrated human settlements.

She gave her full support for all provinces who are developing similar legislation and also commended the MEC of Housing and Local Government in Kwazulu Natal for leading on developing the legislation.

In his conclusion Judge Shabalala said Kwazulu Natal Provincial Government must be applauded for attempting to deal with the problem of slums conditions.

"The slums Act makes things more orderly in this province and the Act must be given a chance to show off its potential to help deal with problem of slums and slum conditions" The Judge President said.

He added that the Slum Act was the first of its kind and other provinces were waiting to see how it functions in KwaZulu-Natal.

During the period from 2004 to 2008 the department, through BNG, created an estimated 311 600 direct job opportunities in addition to a further 290 750 indirect job opportunities, making a total of 602 350 job opportunities. - BuaNews