Community Law Centre Comments on the Lwandle Eviction

On Tuesday 3 June 2014, hundreds of people occupying a piece of land at Nomzamo settlement in Strand woke up to the shock of their lives when their homes were razed down and violently evicted from a piece of land they were occupying. The Socioeconomic Rights Project at the Community Law Centre (CLC), University of the Western Cape expresses its deep concern regarding the manner of eviction of residents of Lwandle, Strand, who were purportedly to be illegally occupying a piece of land belonging to SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

 While the processes leading to the eviction order which have now rendered hundreds of people homeless during this biting winter are hazy, CLC is concerned about the forceful and violent nature the eviction was carried out and the human rights implications for the affected residents. Many of those affected by this forced eviction are children and elderly people.

While SANRAL and the Western Cape government have struggled to justify the forced eviction and the accompanied acts of brutality, CLC would like to stress that the Constitution in section 26 guarantees everyone the right to adequate housing and not to be arbitrarily evicted from their homes. In addition, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 1998 protect unlawful occupiers for arbitrary and forced eviction.

Moreover, this Act requires that the interests of vulnerable and marginalised groups such as children women, elderly and disabled must be consider before granting an eviction order. The Constitution in a number of cases has explained that an eviction of people from their homes must be a last resort after other avenues have been explored including, provisions of suitable alternative means of accommodation for the people to be evicted.

More importantly, the Courts have said that government must include in its budget planning provision of emergency housing for people who are likely experienced forced eviction. Even where eviction process is initiated by a private individual it is still the responsibility of the government to ensure that adequate and acceptable alternative accommodation has been provided for the affected people. The government cannot abdicate its responsibility to ensure the right to adequate housing for its people under any guise.

It is important to note that people who occupy land illegally do so because they are frustrated with service delivery processes on access to housing. Millions of South Africans have been waiting for ages without hope of securing a home. A research by CLC and the Social Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (‘Jumping the Queue’, Waiting Lists and other Myths: Perceptions and Practice around Housing Demand and Allocation in South Africa’ (2013)) identified some deficiencies including maladministration, lack of communication, inefficiency and corruption often marred housing allocation processes in the country.

This is a reminder that the government needs to be more alive to its obligations to realise the rights to housing for the people. While applaud the fact that some of the people evicted have been provided with temporary accommodation, we would like to stress that a more coordinated and coherent programme on emergency housing is imperative in the province.

By Dr. Ebenezer Durojaye

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