The Cape High Court has ruled against the City of Cape Town for allegedly evicting people who were living at a tent camp in District Six.
According to Ground Up, the ruling stated that the City of Cape Town cannot by any means use bylaws to ignore the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The case involved the eviction of a number of people who lived in tents and other informal structures in a parking lot in Sydney St, District Six.
Judge Rosheni Allie ruled that all tents, materials and property that belonged to the 46 homeless people should be returned or damages of R1 700 each as compensation should be paid, reports IOL.
The City also faced another interdiction with regards to evicting the homeless people or confiscating their tents, informal structures or personal belongings such as ID’s, drivers license, clothes, blankets, food and toiletries without a court order.
Some of the evictees were handed notices to appear in the municipal court for violating the bylaws, with options of fines, but at no point were they given any copy of a court order that authorised the eviction.
Ruwayda Davids was among the evictees and said their eviction could only be authorised by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE), but the City said all tents were impounded under the bylaws that related to streets, public places, and the prevention of nuisances.
“About a month prior to September, the City’s social development department officials approached some of the applicants and offered them accommodation at the City’s Safe Space”, says Judge Allie.
“The Safe Space in Culemborg requires them to wake up at 6am, have breakfast and leave by 8am and return at 5pm. That is clearly not a home in which household members can remain together during the day and is clearly a shelter for homeless people”, the Judge said.
Davids explained to the court that the City was misusing the bylaws to find a way around the PIE Act and “criminalised the poor.”
In the City’s defence, they explained that the homeless were contributing to the deterioration of the area by making illegal fires, littering, dumping, increasing criminal activity, abusing drugs and alcohol, creating a nuisance by fighting with each other, blocking drains and damaging fire hydrants.
Judge Allie stated the eviction of a person from their home or the demolition of their home, whether it be an established building or a temporary informal shelter, violates the constitutional rights of that person when it comes to dignity, housing, safety, health and even the right to life.
Daniellé Louw, attorney at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said: “Our clients are elated with the outcome of their case. This judgment confirms that the PIE Act applies to street-based occupiers, that their tents and habitable structures are their homes, and that the City must obtain a court order when it seeks to evict them. We trust that this judgment has dissuaded the City from continuing its rampage to illegally dispossess and displace other street-based occupiers.”