[Press statement] Durban High Court stops thousands of evictions (20 August 2015)


Today Judge Mokgohloa, sitting in the Durban High
Court handed down judgment in MEC for Human Settlements, KwaZulu Natal v.
eThekwini Municipality and Others
. The Judge
struck down a temporary court order that had been used by the MEC and the
Durban Municipality to evict thousands of poor people from informal settlements
in Durban.

The court confirmed that evictions are governed by
the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act
(PIE) and section 26 (3) of the Constitution. The process prescribed by those
instruments must be followed before the eviction of unlawful occupiers is
undertaken. PIE and the Constitution are intended to respect the dignity of the
poor, and ensure that alternative accommodation is provided where needed. The
interim order granted to the MEC was not sought or granted under PIE, nor could
it be, because it allowed for people to be evicted without court oversight and
without notice.

The High Court’s judgment comes at a time when
municipalities and land owners are relying more and more on urgent court
proceedings to facilitate evictions of informal settlers and destroy their
property without having to justify their actions to a court. The judgment has
national implications, and sends a clear message to municipalities and owners
seeking similar interdicts that they too are subject to the requirements of the
PIE Act, and the Constitution. It represents a significant step towards
achieving a more just dispensation for people who feel the burden of inequality
most in South Africa.

Nomzamo Zondo, Director of Litigation at SERI said
“The order the MEC sought to confirm would have resulted in many thousands of
people being made homeless. Our Constitution demands that people who are driven
to occupy open land because they have nowhere else to go must be treated with
dignity and respect. They must be given help to live in peace and dignity, not
cast out onto the street. Judge Mokgohloa’s judgment is welcome re-affirmation
of this.”

Download the
full statement here.

Read more
about the case here and here.