Evicted residents win court victory
Miore than 5000 people evicted from the Schubart Park block of flats in Pretoria a yearago scored a major victory yesterday when the Constitutional Court ruled the evictions illegal and ordered the City of Tshwane to restore their residency.
The ruling is a slap in the face for the municipality, which has been at loggerheads with the residents for over a year.
The ruling, which cannot be appealed, states that not only must the city renovate the block of flats but must find suitable accommodation for the residents during the renovations.
The city has been embroiled in numerous legal battles with the residents since they were evicted in September last year following the disconnection of the building's water and power supply.
The ruling was made after Lawyers for Human Rights appealed in the Constitutional Court against four judgments in the Pretoria High Court granting the council permission to evict.
Lawyers for Human Rights national director Jacob van Garderen said the residents' rights had been "brutally violated".
"The court has made it clear that the city cannot ignore the country's laws," he said.
City of Tshwane spokesman Nomasonto Ndlovu would not comment because the municipality was "still studying the judgment".
Van Garderen said: "The city's dubious technical report, which indicated that the building was structurally unsound, was refuted by an independent structural engineer, who showed that the only thing that needed to be done to make it habitable was renovation."
He said the city had been saddled not only with the latest legal costs but also with the costs of the renovations.
"The mayor has invested a lot of political capital in this case, threatening to sort out Schubart Park before December," he said.
He said the court ruling sent a strong message to city officials contemplating the large-scale eviction of poor, vulnerable people.
"This ruling shows that the law must be followed when it comes to evictions."
Aubrey Ramotlhale, a member of the Schubart and Kruger Park Residents' Committee, said residents were ecstatic.
"We were harassed and our rights were trampled on but today I have reason to have faith in our legal system. It's time the politicians we voted into power proved that they deserve those positions," Ramotlhale said.