South Africa: Western Cape Human Settlements On Court Case On Legality of Halting Illegal Occupations

press release

Tomorrow, part B of the South African Human Rights Commission and the Economic Freedom Fighters' litigation against the City of Cape Town in respect of the rights of landowners to halt an illegal land invasion in progress, commences in the Western Cape High Court.

In September, the Western Cape Government (WCG) filed an intervening affidavit, requesting that it be allowed to participate in the case, due to the substantial effect that its ruling will have on service delivery on public land.

The matter has been set down to be heard over three days.

Mandated on behalf of the provincial cabinet, Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements, Tertuis Simmers, said: "The next few days is critical for us. Our duty is to make the court aware of the consequences which follow when the tools to intervene in large-scale land invasions which are underway, are removed.

"Amongst other things, we will highlight that the WCG is the custodian of public land that is, and will be, used for human settlements, education, health and social services, as well as conservation both currently and for future generations; and that the common law remedy of counter-spoliation, which recognises an owner's right to immediately retake possession of unlawfully-taken property, without approaching a court first, is a vital means by which the violent and often orchestrated invasion of our land is avoided.

The exorbitant amounts currently being spent by government to prevent illegal land grabs and site invasions is insufficient to stem this tide without the common law remedy of counter-spoliation too, as well as a motivated police service and responsive courts.

Whilst the desperate need for housing is clear, the invasion of land earmarked for public use cannot be allowed to continue with impunity. The funding used to avert these acts, both by way of security and legal costs, would be far better used to create further housing opportunities in a lawful manner, for those residents who have dutifully registered on our waiting lists and are patiently awaiting an opportunity. It is these residents that are being dispossessed.

We are thus grateful to the court for acceding to our request to present it with our arguments in this respect."

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