13 June 2014

South Africa: Minister Puts Freeze On Land Evictions

Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, has made a call to all land owners, both state and private, to put on hold all planned evictions of illegal occupants.

"The Minister ... today called on all owners of land within the state and the private sector to suspend all planned evictions until there is a clear understanding of the laws and basic human rights requirements that must be met before any eviction can take place," said the minister in a statement on Thursday.

Minister Sisulu said she remained unhappy with evictions that were implemented in winter "when it is cold and while school-going children are writing exams".

"As the Minister of Human Settlement l fail to understand why a property owner will receive a court order in summer and wait until winter to effect it. It is inhumane and bad timing, it is totally unacceptable," she said.

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, as amended requires land and property owners to take action against illegal occupiers of land and property within six months of the illegal act; should the owner fail to do so, the owner is required to provide temporary accommodation as part of the eviction plan.

The minister on Wednesday evening visited the evicted families of Lwandle, in the Western Cape, who are currently accommodated at a local hall.

About 800 residents were evicted from their informal settlements following a court order that they be removed, as the land they stayed on was being occupied illegally. The land in question is reportedly owned by SA National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL).

SANRAL in January obtained a High Court eviction order against hundreds of people who had illegally invaded the area, which is earmarked for road construction.

Minister Sisulu said, both her and Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, had taken responsibility for the evictions and her team had provided the evicted families with alternative accommodation.

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