ConCourt sends families battling eviction to new homes 30km away

13 July 2017 - 16:52 By Aphiwe Deklerk
Gavel. File photo.
Gavel. File photo.
Image: Thinkstock

Former employees of a brick plant in Cape Town have lost their five-year battle to hold on to their farm homes.

On Thursday the Constitutional Court said they should pack their bags and move 30km from Muldersvlei‚ near Klapmuts‚ to Wolwerivier‚ near Atlantis‚ which they argued is too far from their children’s schools and their workplace.

Lawyers for Human Rights‚ who represented the ex-employees‚ said the judgment was disappointing. “This approach has potentially disastrous consequences for ex-employees of mining companies and other rural occupiers‚” said spokeswoman Carol Mohlala. “It also places a disproportionate burden on municipal resources‚ which the taxpayer must ultimately provide.”

The applicants deemed the Wolwerivier homes offered by the City of Cape Town “inadequate” because they were “constructed with corrugated cladding”. Because the men worked on the farm they were provided with accommodation and lived there with their families‚ but in 2012 their former employer obtained an eviction order.

Throughout the ensuing legal battle‚ the City of Cape Town said it was not in a position to provide homes due to its housing backlog‚ but a few days before the ConCourt hearing it offered units in Wolwerivier.

Thursday’s judgment said it was the municipality’s role to find alternative accommodation‚ and deemed Wolwerivier suitable. However‚ the judges had harsh words for the Cape Town council.

“It is astounding that the city waited to inform this court of its offer on alternative accommodation until only a few days before the hearing of the matter‚” they said. “The city has had more than five years to fulfil its constitutional obligation to provide alternative accommodation‚ but waited until the last minute.”

Mohlala said Lawyers for Human Rights had hoped the court would use the matter to develop the law concerning suitable alternative accommodation for occupiers of farmland in a “manner that is progressive”.

But as a result of the judgment‚ farm owners would have all the benefits of housing workers on their properties without any obligations. “Most disappointing ... is that the court considered accommodation some 30km away from the existing place of residence as reasonable‚” she said.

The city council did not respond to questions.