South African Human Rights Commission (Braamfontein)

20 November 2012

South Africa: Human Rights Commission On Lenasia

Photo: Nombulelo Damba/WCN
A destroyed house (file photo): The site of families fighting for their homes has touched a chord for many South Africans.

press release

The South African Human Rights Commission expressed its regret and disappointment at the manner in which the Department of Housing and Local Government in Gauteng has conducted itself in the Lenasia matter.

The Commission is concerned by the Department's decision to demolish more houses in other parts of Lenasia on Monday, thus raising further tensions and uncertainty in the residents. The demolitions on Monday happened amidst the court process that the Commission and the Department and the residents are engaged in.

The Commission is cognizant of the fact that the area where demolitions happened on Monday is not covered by the court interdict received against the Department, but believes that further demolitions will put a cloud over the pending court process around demolitions in the same area.

The actions of the Department also raises suspicions about the bona fides of the departments claims that it is acting within the bounds of the law or with due respect to the rights of people.

It also suggests that the MEC, who has been vocal in the media defending what is clearly against the norms in a constitutional democracy, is ignoring suggestions of other solutions that include a possible mediation. The Commission has, through the Chairperson Adv. Lawrence Mushwana, made efforts to meet and talk with MEC Ntombi Mekgwe. But those efforts have so far hit a brick-wall.

It is indeed unfortunate that in this time in the history of our country, we have a government Department that still wants to solve problems through bulldozers and destruction.

The Commission continues to support an approach grounded in dialogue and amicable resolution but is acutely aware that as the conduct of the Department continues, this may be made increasingly difficult to achieve. A mediated approach recognises that our legal frameworks are built on the values enshrined in the Constitution which are reflective of our history and struggle as a country, on the other. To adopt extreme action that disregards these values therefore makes a mockery of human rights.

The Commission emphasizes its commitment to the rule of law and believes this could more fully be respected by the Department if it conducted itself in a inhumane way in so far as the Lenasia matter is concerned.

We fully intend to pursue our action in court on Friday the 23rd November 2012, in light of the Department's non-response to our request for an amicable resolution, and its actions on Monday.

The Commission urges the Department to immediately stop further evictions and demolitions, to allow the investigations and court processes to continue, and to consider the possibility of independent mediation for an amicable resolution of this matter.

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