LHR and City of Jo'burg reach settlement on Marlboro Gardens

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) have secured an important settlement in the Marlboro Gardens eviction case after the Constitutional Court ruled that the City of Johannesburg must provide land and building materials to evicted residents.

LHR turned to the Constitutional Court in a bid to have the City re-establish housing for residents who were illegally evicted in August. “This is a significant settlement in getting the City to provide the building materials but the onus is now on the City to deliver on its responsibilities to the community and to engage with everyone involved,” said Louise du Plessis, attorney for LHR’s Land and Housing Unit.

On 2 August 2012, over 200 Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officers entered the area and forcibly removed residents and demolished their dwellings without a court order. This is despite numerous judgments requiring that a court order be present for an eviction to be enforceable. The municipality made no effort to find alternative accommodation for those affected despite being legally obligated to. Temporary shelter was provided by an NGO which was set up on municipal land. This situation, though, separates families and fails to provide privacy.

Justice Sisi Khampepe delivered the judgment that forces the City to allocate municipal land for the re-establishment of the informal settlement. The City has four months to find additional land if more space is needed and must return to court on 31 January 2013 to give a full update.

“We are happy that our clients will be able to get their own shelter and hope that this is the last time that a municipality will use excuses like sinkholes, dilapidated buildings and bylaws to act unlawfully and evict occupiers without following due process,” added du Plessis.

The court called on both parties to engage meaningfully to reach agreement on the supply of materials for building, the type of shelters allowed to be built and the final date for completion.

The City has also been ordered to pay costs.

The settlement in Marlboro Gardens is reportedly situated on private land and no explanation has been given about why the JMPD was called in for the eviction, particularly without a court order. Additional reports of police violence and the use of live ammunition in this illegal eviction may lead to further court action.

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