18 May 2017

South Africa: Concourt Judgment Explicitly Links Access to Land and Housing With the Protection of Dignity

analysis

In South Africa, the dispossession from land of black people by white people is the original sin of colonial conquest, a sin whose consequences loom large over present day South Africa. Last week the Constitutional Court handed down a judgment of considerable rhetorical power to address a modest aspect of this legacy.

Yolanda Daniels is a domestic worker who has lived with her minor children in a dwelling on Chardonne Farm outside Stellenbosch for the past 16 years. Daniels wanted to make certain improvements to her dwelling - levelling the floors, paving part of the outside area and installing an indoor water supply, a wash basin, a second window and a ceiling.

After work had commenced, Daniels received a letter from the farm manager, one Theo Scribante, ordering her to stop the work. He argued that the improvements were unlawful. In effect, Scribante argued that the property rights of the owners of the farm trumped (can one use this term with a straight face in these times of The Donald?) Daniels' right to live in a dwelling that would afford her a modicum of dignity.

In a judgment handed down last week in Daniels v Scribante and Another the Constitutional...

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