Victory for the homeless

Date: 03/04/2018

LHR represents a group of homeless people who reside at Prince’s Park, on the corner of Prince’s Park Road and Nana Sita Streets in the centre of town.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) represents a group of homeless people who reside at Prince’s Park, on the corner of Prince’s Park Road and Nana Sita Streets in the centre of town.

On 20 February 2018 the City of Tshwane’s Waste management department together with the Tshwane Metro Police Department, went to the park where the 24 applicants and several more people live, and confiscated the personal property of all the occupiers. This was done apparently in terms of a ‘clean up’ operation. People lost valuable items including ID books and cards, cell phones, clothing and other personal belongings. Neither the Metro Police nor the waste management services gave the occupiers prior warning. When they confiscated their property, they did not give them an opportunity to salvage their valuables. Instead the occupiers were told that if they wanted to retrieve their personal belongings they must go to the dumping site in Rosslyn north of Pretoria.

On 7 March 2018 the waste management department confiscated yet more property at Burgers Park Lane.

Lawyers for human rights wrote to the City Manager and the Mayor to try and resolve the matter, without success. LHR assisted the occupiers to urgently approach the Pretoria High Court for relief. The occupiers asked the court to interdict all clean-up operations by the City and to order the City to pay constitutional damages for the violation of their constitutional rights, most importantly the right to dignity.

Today the matter was due to be argued. However, the City Manager filed an affidavit where he admits that the officials of the Municipality did remove the people’s property. He then offered payment for ‘emergency relief in distress’ for what he refers to as the ‘distress caused the applicants’. The City manager also stated that any and all further ‘clean-up’ operations within the City will be conducted in accordance with the law and that the City will communicate with Lawyers for Human Rights when they intend to conduct any such operation. This undertaking was made an order of court. The City will pay to the twenty four applicants R1, 500 within 30 days of the granting of the order.

The order was granted by agreement between the City and the occupiers. This means that from today onwards the City will no longer confiscate any person’s property in terms of its ‘clean – up’ operation without first informing LHR.

LHR is pleased with the outcome of the matter, as many poor homeless people are constantly harassed by municipalities under the guise of “clean – up operations”. The municipalities must be more mindful of the plight of homeless people, these problems can be dealt with more constructively if municipalities adopt a homeless policy. In Tshwane a number of NGO’s have drafted such a policy, but it has not been adopted. LHR is looking forward to deal with a similar case against the Johannesburg Metro Municipality, which will be heard later this year in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

For More Infomation please contact Hlengiwe Mtshatsha, attorney for the Land and Housing Programme on 012 320 2943 or Carol Mohlala, Media and Communications Manager on 079 238 9826

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