Supreme Court of Appeal declaresTswelopele eviction unlawful

Lawyers for Human Rights welcomes the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal this morning in the case of Tswelopele v City of Tshwane and the Minister of Safety and Security (case 303/06).  In March 2006, officials of the Tshwane Metro and the SAPS were involved in an illegal eviction of squatters in the Moreletta Park area. Not only did they evict the informal dwellers without any court order, but they razed their shacks to the ground and burnt the material. This came at a time when the first cold front had just arrived. Adults and children were literally left without any shelter and were left exposed to life threatening cold. A non profit organisation by the name of Tswelopele, run by Mr Colin Dredge and his wife Denise, went to court seeking urgent relief on behalf of the squatters.

Lawyers from Lawyers for Human Rights and a private law firm in Pretoria, Vorster and Du Plessis, started working on the matter. The High Court found that it could not grant any relief because our law did not provide for urgent restoration in cases where the original material or goods no longer existed.  The callous actions of Tshwane and the police followed an alarming emerging trend country wide in terms of which authorities would completely destroy all shack material during illegal evictions, knowing that they could succesfully avoid legal consequences if they could establish that return of the property was impossible. But Tswelopele persisted and took the matter on appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, together with some of the affected squatters.  In a precedent setting judgment, the SCA  overturned the judgment of the High Court and ordered the respondents in the matter to ensure that the informal dwellers are given basic shelter in lieu of the original materials. This case brings to an end the uncertainty in this area of law that was created by conflicting high court judgments on the issue. It brings our law in line with the values of our constitution and will ensure that authorities act within the law when dealing with homeless people.  For further details or comments, contact Sehaam Samaai on 083 419 0558