Media: Shelter for the poor in landmark eviction ruling

14 10 2008
by Stuart Wilson
Source: Business Day

THE days of quick and easy money for property investors in the inner city may be over. The Johannesburg High Court recently handed down judgment in the case of Blue Moonlight Properties 39 versus the occupiers of Saratoga Avenue and another.

Judge Thokozile Masipa held that the High Court could not consider an application for the eviction of 80 desperately poor people living in disused warehouses and workshops in Saratoga Avenue, Berea. It could decide on the application only after the city of Johannesburg had reported to the court what it would do to rehouse the occupiers and when such action would be taken. Read the rest of this entry »

Solidarity: APF outraged over Western Cape Court sentencing of leading activists to one year in prison

10 07 2008

Update: AEC was able to raise funds from within the community and from various well-wishers.  They are now in the process of appealing the conviction in Cape Town High Court.

Anti Privatisation Forum Press Statement
7 July 2008

The Anti Eviction Campaign is under attack in the Western Cape. Magistrate Van Graan sentenced two leading members of the Delft-Symphony Way settlement, Jerome Daniels and Riedwaan Isaacs, to a year in prison. The Anti Privatisation Forum cannot doubt the report from the AEC that the magistrate
made a politically motivated judgement in wanting to teach the AEC a lesson. He was not shy in his conduct and his judgement to emphasise the ties of the defendants to the organisation. Being a member of an organisation of the poor is incriminating enough for these hawks. Read the rest of this entry »

Hlophe accused of Zuma interference

30 05 2008

Background note: This is not the first time Judge Hlophe has been accused of corruption. He was accused of taking bribes from property developers and evidence shows that he was guilty of this offence. He was also the judge to rule on the forced removals from Joe Slovo which is now being appealed to the constitutional court. It is clear to everyone involved that Hlophe has been biased towards the ANC and property developers which accounts for his viscious ruling against about 20,000 Joe Slovo residents. For more information see the article by Pierre De Vos (Professor of Constitutional Law at UWC).

Giordano Stolley at M&G
30 May 2008 04:59

Cape Judge President John Hlophe has been accused of attempting to influence the Constitutional Court’s decision over search-and-seizure raids carried out by the Scorpions on properties of African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma and French arms manufacturing giant Thint. Read the rest of this entry »

Housing and Evictions at the N2 Gateway Project in Delft

21 05 2008
A Report for Abahlali baseMjondolo (in PDF format)
Kerry Chance
May 8, 2008


19 December 2007: Backyarders in Delft occupy unfinished N2 Gateway houses.

24 December 2007: Cape High Court orders halt to evictions of Delft backyarders occupying N2 Gateway houses.

3 January 2008: Cape High Court throws out eviction order, under which evictions in Delft were carried out. Provincial government and Thubelisha Homes apply for a new eviction order.

5 February 2008: Cape High Court grants order to provincial government and Thubelisha homes to evict backyarders in Delft, to take effect on 17 February.

19 February 2008: After appeal is rejected, Delft backyarders are evicted from N2 Gateway houses.

– From Martin Legassick, “Western Cape Housing Crisis: Writings on Joe Slovo and Delft,” February 2008.

CAPE TOWN – At dawn on February 19 2007, police and private security moved into Delft, a sandy barren area on the Cape Flats slated for a pilot housing project called the N2 Gateway. With trucks and a dog unit, the eviction team went door-to-door to remove some 1,600 residents from the homes that they had occupied two months earlier at the alleged authorization of their local councilor. The scene of the February 19 eviction, broadcast on the nightly news, was violent: police fired rubber bullets into the gathering crowds on the street, chasing and shooting at residents as they ran for cover. At least twenty people were wounded and rushed to hospital, including a three-year-old child, who was hit by bullets in the foot, leg and shoulder. The evicted residents were then left on the pavement, their belongings – furniture, bedding, clothes – packed onto trucks by the eviction team and taken to the local police precinct.

The N2 Gateway Project has been described by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as “the biggest housing project ever undertaken by any Government.” It is a joint endeavor by the national Department of Housing, the provincial government and the city of Cape Town. A private company, Thubelisha, has been outsourced to manage and implement the project. Thubelisha estimates that some 25 000 units will be constructed, about 70% of which will be allocated to shack-dwellers, and 30% to backyard dwellers on the municipal housing waiting lists. Delft, 40km outside of Cape Town, is one of the primary sites of the Project.

This report compiles recent information on housing and evictions at the N2 Gateway site in Delft, shortly before and since February 19. Among those evicted on February 19 was Monique, a longtime resident of Delft, who, like many others, had been renting in backyards before occupying the N2 Gateway houses. She has lived in much of the housing at issue at the site in Delft, at the same time, working for a building contractor on the N2 Gateway Project. Her story, in brief, is told here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cape High Court Orders Eviction of Joe Slovo Shack Settlement; Residents Vow to Resist

16 03 2008

A Report for Abahlali baseMjondolo by Kerry Chance

Monday, March 10 2008, CAPE TOWN - Cape Judge President John Hlophe ordered residents of the Joe Slovo shack settlement to be evicted from their homes in Langa and relocated to Delft, as part of the N2 Gateway Project. Thousands of shack dwellers from Langa, as well as some from Delft, congregated at the steps of the Cape Town High Court to express their opposition to the eviction. They carried signs that read, “If We Lose, We Will Appeal” and “We Will Resist the Red Ants.”

In the packed courtroom, singing could be heard from the remaining crowd outside. Following the decision on Monday, shack dwellers shouted “Phansi Hlophe!” and “Phansi [Housing Minister] Lindiwe Sisulu!” An Anti-Eviction Campaign banner was raised at the front of the crowd that read: “Down with Evictions, Water Cut Offs, & Privatisation, Forward to Community Struggles. Phambili! No Land, No House, No Vote.” Approximately a thousand residents returned to Joe Slovo settlement for a mass meeting to discuss a “resistance Plan B” and the possibility of further legal action in the Bloemfontein Court of Appeal. Residents expressed their solidarity with Delft backyarders, some of whom also attended the meeting.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, in a press release, referred to the decision on Monday as “bureaucratic madness.” Joe Slovo residents “do not want to go” to Delft, but “there are thousands of backyarders in Delft who need the housing being built there,” stated the press release. Currently, Delft backyarders are living on the pavement alongside new, empty houses. Backyarders previously occupied the new houses and were violently ejected from them last month. The houses are now encircled with barbed wire fencing, and patrolled by private security and metro police.

Joe Slovo shack dwellers will not be guaranteed occupancy of new houses in Delft, but rather will be placed in “temporary accommodation,” for an unspecified period of time. Residents already relocated to the Delft “temporary accommodation” found that it was made with cancer-causing asbestos, now a matter of investigation. Complaints also have been lodged that the “accommodation” was defective in a variety of other ways, including huge cracks in the walls and leaking roofs.

The land in Langa, where Joe Slovo shack dwellers have lived for at least nineteen years, will be used for bonded flats, which are too expensive for current residents. Construction of the bonded flats is already underway. Unlike the land in Langa, Delft – dubbed the “Delft Karoo” for its sandy, barren landscape – has no train station, transport costs are high, and it is far from the city centre and Langa, where residents respectively work and children attend school. An estimated 6 000 people will be affected by the eviction order.

In his decision, Judge Hlophe directed Joe Slovo residents to assist in the removal of their homes, and gave authority to the Sheriff to enforce the order. Residents are required to vacate the land in accordance with a timetable, reported the Cape Times, beginning on March 17 and ending on January 19, 2009 – in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. In the courtroom, Judge Hlophe cited no reason for the eviction, but directed residents to the fifty page judgment to read his decision in its entirety.

The case against Joe Slovo residents, who were represented in Court by the Legal Resources Centre, was brought by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Western Cape Housing MEC Richard Dyantyi and Thubelisha Homes, a company in partnership with government and the manger of the N2 Gateway Project, responsible for building the new houses in Delft and the “temporary accommodation.” Judge Hlophe said in his decision that the company and the government are to file affidavits to the courts every eight weeks to report on the implementation of his eviction and relocation orders.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign stated in a press release, “The residents of Joe Slovo wish to make it clear that this is just the beginning of the struggle.”

On the same day that Judge Hlophe handed down his judgment the report of Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, on his mission to South Africa was released. It is not uninteresting to compare the two documents.

No compassion for people who do not drive a Porsche?

16 03 2008

by Pierre De Vos (Professor of Constitutional Law at UWC)
Source: Constitutionally Speaking

One would think that it would have been hard for Judge President of the Cape, John Hlophe, to order the forced eviction of 20 000 poor, black people from the Joe Slovo informal settlement. After all, when he was in trouble for taking hundreds of thousands of Rand from the Oasis company and then lied about the reasons for these “out of pocket” expenses, he presented himself as a champion of transformation and a victim of racism.

But I suppose now that he is safely back in the saddle and he can enjoy his ownership of a wine farm while driving in a shiny new black Porsche, he has forgotten the values of the Constitution that requires him to consider the human dignity of the poor people whose forced eviction he has now ordered. Who cares that the order will destroy this community and that the people now living close to work opportunities will be dumped in the gramadoelas in Delft?

Yesterday the judge President handed down a judgment in Thubelisa Homes and Others v Various Occupants and Others that seems to me completely devoid of compassion and also legally misguided because it essentially ignores recent decisions by the Constitutional Court, while purporting to follow them. Thubelisa Homes applied for the eviction order so that it could bulldoze the shacks next the the N2 before erecting shiny new homes where only a few of the original occupants of the informal settlement will ever live.

The starting point of the judgment is that the residence of Joe Slovo - who have been living on the land since 1994 and have been given tacit approval for living there by the authorities - are unlawfully occupying the land needed for a vanity housing project (the N2 Gateway project) and that it would therefore be fine to remove them to Delft because it would actually “undoubtedly [be] for the benefit of the residents of the informal settlement and in line with the Constitutional values”. These pesky residence just do not want to know what is good for them. Obviously bureaucrats and a judge driving a Porsche knows much better what is good for them than they would know themselves. After all they are only poor and black.

The judgment refers to an earlier Constitutional Court judgment in the Port Elizabeth Municipality case where justice Albie Sachs stated that a court should be reluctant to grant an eviction order against relatively settled occupiers unless it is satisfied that a reasonable alternative is available. Thus, Justice Sachs continued, the legislation expressly requires:

the court to infuse elements of grace and compassion into the formal structures of the law. It is called upon to balance competing interests in a principled way and to promote the constitutional vision of a caring society based on good neighbourliness and shared concern. The Constitution and PIE confirm that we are not islands unto ourselves. The spirit of ubuntu, part of the deep cultural heritage of the majority of the population, suffuses the whole constitutional order. It combines individual rights with a communitarian philosophy.

But the judgment then approvingly quotes from the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment (handed down by that champion of transformation, Harms ADP) in City of Johannesburg v Rand Properties (since overtaken by the Constitutional Court judgment two weeks ago!) to the effect that the Constitution does not give a person a right to housing at State expense at a locality of that person’s choice and concludes that it is fair and reasonable to dump the 20 000 Joe Slovo residence in Delft - even though it is 15 kilometers from Joe Slovo, far away from the city center of Cape Town.

This line of reasoning is perplexing, to say the least, as the Constitutional Court in the City of Johannesburg case in effect overruled the SCA judgment by ordering the parties to negotiate with one another and by implicitly accepting that it would not be humane or in conformity with a respect for the human dignity of the inner city dwellers to dump them at alternative accommodation 35 km outside of town. In that judgment Justice Yacoob stressed that the human dignity of those affected by removal must be respected and that their views must be heard.

This seems to imply that high handed and unilateral action by officials or judges telling people what is good for them will not suffice. A real and meaningful engagement is required and merely telling the people of Joe Slovo that it was in their own interest to be dumped in godforsaken Delft would not be good enough. What is sorely lacking in the Hlophe judgment is the “grace and compassion” that Justice Sachs spoke about.

For me what permeates the judgment is a complete lack of compassion for the plight of the Joe Slovo residence. There might be a case to be made to upgrade the Joe Slovo informal settlement, but then it should surely be done within the confines of the Constitutional values of dignity and respect. By repeating over and over that the Joe Slovo residence are living unlawfully on the land, the judgment seems to suggest that they are criminals who are thus less deserving of concern, compassion and respect.

It accepts that the government policy that would force most Joe Slovo residence to permanently live far away from their places of work is completely reasonable because the government says that it is reasonable. It emphasises the need for the court to respect the separation of powers and thus suggests that the court should take at face value assurances by the government that it would be better for Joe Slovo residence to be moved. It completely ignores the fact that the Joe Slovo residence do not think it would be better for them to go and live in the veld.

It is hard to argue that “elements of grace and compassion” animate the conception of reasonableness in this case. It suggests that it is perfectly acceptable for the state to forcibly remove a large group of people who have been living on a piece of land for thirteen years merely because the government of the day has decided this is what needs to happen.

Maybe I am too harsh on the judgment, but it seems to me that given our history in which the apartheid government forcibly removed people at the drop of a hat, courts should be extremely sensitive to give eviction orders where such a large group of people will be moved and their lives disrupted for ever. In this case there is a complete absence of this historical perspective.

To my mind it once again shows the difficulties of judicial transformation and poses questions about what kind of judges we need on the bench. Surely real judicial transformation requires judges who are sensitive to the needs of the poor and destitute and at least an honest engagement with their fears and complaints. In this judgment there is a complete absence of such engagement and the Joe Slovo residence and their needs are completely ignored. They are treated as recalcitrant individuals standing in the way of the government housing programme and their needs and wishes are completely ignored.

Before the law they have once again become invisible. They are not treated as individual human beings with feelings and needs but merely as a problem to be dealt with. What we need are more judges who really wrestle with the very difficult issues presented by gentrification of informal settlements and the real hurt and pain of forced removals. This is what the Constitution - as interpreted by the Constitutional Court, not the SCA - requires.

Perhaps this is too much to ask of a judge who might experience this informal settlement on the N2 as an eyesore and a stumbling block to progress - even as he speeds to his wine farm in his shiny Porsche.

Pictures: Joe Slovo judgement - March 10, 2008

13 03 2008

Cape High Court Judgment for Joe Slovo

13 03 2008

Cape High Court Jugdement for Joe Slovo (PDF)

The full judgement from the Cape High Court can be accessed using the link above. The Joe Slovo Crisis Committee plans to appeal this judgment in the higher courts.

Below are pictures of the Rally outside the court on the day of Cape High Court announced their judgement.


Hlophe approves the removal of thousands of poor from Joe Slovo

10 03 2008

Today, March 10, 2008 at 11pm

Judge Hlophe of the Cape High Court (who has been embroiled in a previous corruption scandle related to property developers) issued an order for the forced removal of the residents of Joe Slovo settlement in Langa, as requested by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Western Cape Housing MEC Richard Dyantyi, and John Duarte and Prince Xanthi Sigcawu of Thubelisha Homes.

By this order Hlophe and the others have declared war on the people of Joe Slovo and must take responsibility for the consequences. By this order Hlophe endorses the bureaucratic madness of forcibly removing Joe Slovo residents to Delft when they do not want to go there, and when there are thousands of backyarders in Delft who need the housing being built there by Thubelisha. By this order Hlophe, Sisulu, Dyantyi, Duarte and Sigcawu show themselves as insensitive to the needs of ordinary people as any of the ministers and judges of the apartheid era.

The residents of Joe Slovo wish to make it clear that this is just the beginning of the struggle.

They are aware of the collusion that allowed Thubelisha Homes to be aware of Hlophe’s decision before he announced it in court. The residents of Joe Slovo intend to appeal this decision to the Bloemfontein Court of Appeal and to the Constitutional Court if necessary. In parallel with this there is a resistance Plan B which will be revealed as appropriate.

  • Please look back here for more on the Joe Slovo forced removals. The court judgment as well as pictures and videos from residents will be uploaded shortly.

Clarification: The Western Cape Anti Eviction Campaign wishes to place on record that the statement titled as above and issued earlier today was issued by the WCAEC and not by Mzwanele Zulu, the Joe Slovo task team or any other Joe Slovo settlement structure. In particular the WC AEC apologises to Mzwanele Zulu for any implication that he had anything to do with this statement, since he did not.

AEC Press Update from Symphony Way, Delft

9 03 2008

March 9, 2008

Solidarity: The Delft Symphony Anti-Eviction Campaign – a community of over 3,000 evicted pavement dwellers living on Symphony Way – has pledge their support with the residents of Joe Slovo and hope that tomorrow’s ruling will be in their favor. A number of Symphony Way pavement dwellers have promised to join the thousands of residents of Joe Slovo at the High Court in Cape Town tomorrow (March 10) to hear Judge Hlophe’s ruling.

Survey and legal issues: Community leaders have spent the past week doing a survey of the pavement dwellers of Symphony Way. This gathering of information will be used to better serve residents and also in preparation for their next meeting with MEC Dyanti. The AEC legal team has prepared its appeal case to Bloemfontein and is ready to be lodged if no positive outcome is obtained through the meeting with the MEC.

Strength of the community: In general, the community is in good spirits. There is very little arguing and almost no instances of fighting as the community remains united in their quest for a house to call their own. Some pavement dwellers even say that they are enjoying ‘camping out’ except for the scorpions and the fact that the conditions are traumatic for their children and for the elderly in the community.

Government oppression continues: Still, the city and province have deepened their repressive tactics with regard to residents. The police continue to block residents from driving in and out of Symphony Way. Moreover, the government has now built a barbed wire fence preventing residents from walking to the Leiden section of Delft where they can by food, get clean water, and see friends and family. The settlement is looking more and more like a prison or refugee camp as they days go by. Moreover, community leaders are struggling to feed residents because food aid continues to be prevented from entering the settlement. We appeal to anyone concerned to help us make sure no one in the community goes hungry.

Housing mandate: Through numerous democratic community meetings, the AEC has been given a mandate to fight for houses for the entire community of pavement dwellers. We want to make clear that the community does not want government to provide them with tents, temporary shack structures, or open land – they simply expect government’s promises to be fulfilled: that each family has a house of their own. In light of this and with all due respect, the pavement dwellers of Symphony Way want to make clear that they do not accept the proposal being promoted by Bobby Hendricks regarding the building of low-cost metal frame structures using resident’s housing subsidies.

And so, the struggle continues. Amandla!!!
For comment, please call Ashraf Cassiem at .