Lwan­dle’s poor must have their dig­nity re­stored

Thami Ka Plaatjie

CityPress - - Voices - Ka Plaatjie is ad­viser to Hu­man Set­tle­ments Min­is­ter Lindiwe Sisulu and head of ANC re­search

COME ALONG A Lwan­dle res­i­dent is dragged off by an SAPS duo

The evic­tion of the peo­ple of Lwan­dle in Nomzamo, Strand, near Cape Town, on June 2 oc­curred on one of the cold­est days of the year. The Metro po­lice, as­sisted by the SA Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS), de­scended on the in­for­mal set­tlers and threw out their mea­gre be­long­ings into the harsh el­e­ments, en­sur­ing an un­cer­tain fate for the peo­ple who lived there.

The in­for­mal set­tlers had been evicted from the same spot in Lwan­dle on Fe­bru­ary 3. They sub­se­quently came back in large num­bers.

The SA Na­tional Roads Agency (San­ral), which owned the oc­cu­pied land, ap­plied and re­ceived an in­terim in­ter­dict for­bid­ding fur­ther land in­vaders from com­ing to Lwan­dle. In­stead, it used the in­terim in­ter­dict to ef­fect an evic­tion in Fe­bru­ary and in June.

“The in­quiry … finds that the in­terim in­ter­dict did not em­power the po­lice to as­sist in ef­fect­ing the evic­tion on 2 and 3 June 2014.”

The in­quiry fur­ther found that “the ac­tions of the POP [pub­lic or­der po­lice] was un­jus­ti­fied in that hav­ing given the com­mu­nity 10 min­utes to dis­perse, ac­tion was taken against the com­mu­nity with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore the 10 min­utes had lapsed”.

In re­spect of San­ral, the in­quiry found the roads agency could have known that the chances of se­cur­ing an ur­gent evic­tion or­der were slim given the fact that there was no al­ter­na­tive land for the com­mu­nity and no mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment had taken place with the com­mu­nity, hence the use of an in­terim in­ter­dict as if it was an evic­tion or­der.

The in­quiry also found that San­ral had “failed to take rea­son­able steps to pro­tect its land.

“Not­with­stand­ing the fact that the site had been in­vaded pre­vi­ously, San­ral failed to mon­i­tor and se­cure the prop­erty after it re­gained con­trol of the site pur­suant to the evic­tion on 3 Fe­bru­ary 2014.”

In relation to the con­duct of the sher­iff, the in­quiry found that “the sher­iff ef­fected the evic­tion ... with­out an evic­tion or­der, and … failed to en­sure that the prop­erty of the evictees that was re­moved from the site was prop­erly marked and regis­tered”.

The con­duct of the sher­iff was found to have been grossly neg­li­gent and un­law­ful. The “sher­iffs are guilty of im­proper con­duct in terms of sec­tion 43(1) (a) of the [Sher­iff] Act, if they are neg­li­gent in the ex­e­cu­tion of any court process”.

This abuse of power could be widely preva­lent in many other cases that have not re­ceived the same pub­lic fo­cus as Lwan­dle did.

Re­gard­ing the role of the City of Cape Town, the in­quiry found the City had set in mo­tion the un­law­ful evic­tion by trig­ger­ing San­ral, by way of a let­ter, in­struct­ing them to evict the peo­ple of Lwan­dle. The City worked very closely with San­ral in the process of ap­ply­ing and sub­se­quently ob­tain­ing the in­terim in­ter­dict on Jan­uary 24.

“The in­quiry finds that, given the il­le­gal evic­tion of the af­fected com­mu­nity, the [City of Cape Town] failed in the cir­cum­stances in its du­ties as an or­gan of state to re­spect, pro­tect or pro­mote the fun­da­men­tal rights of its cit­i­zens. Specif­i­cally, its cit­i­zens’ rights of ac­cess to ad­e­quate hous­ing, not to be evicted with­out a court or­der, to dig­nity and shel­ter.”

This is why the City and the DA-con­trolled prov­ince re­fused to ap­pear be­fore the in­quiry, opt­ing in­stead to send writ­ten rep­re­sen­ta­tions. What is lam­en­ta­ble is the col­lu­sion of state in­sti­tu­tions in an il­le­gal and un­law­ful act against the poor.

PHOTO: JONATHAN LESTRADE

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