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Evictions 'illegal': expert

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The shocking forced evictions that took place at the Nomzamo township in Lwandle in Strand, were unconstitutional and unlawful, says leading constitutional law expert Prof. Pierre De Vos. Hundreds of informal settlers were forcibly evicted on Monday, from private land owned by Sanral. The situation took a u-turn on Tuesday, when families were allowed to temporarily allowed to return to the site despite having their homes destroyed, until a long term solution to the issue could be proposed.

Sanral had been awarded an interdict by the high court in January, barring further settlements on the privately owned land. However, residents occupying the land before the interdict was awarded could not legally be evicted and have their homes destroyed.

De Vos raised questions as to whether the high court could legally grant an interdict that allowed evictions of this nature, as the constitution clearly stated the interdict could only be passed after all circumstances within the case were considered.

This meant the court would need to be in line with the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE legislation), which listed various circumstances that needed to be taken into consideration.

These included what led the people to occupy the land, how long they had resided there, what alternative accommodation was made available to them, and whether there were women and children involved.

“That never happened here, because instead of going the route of the constitution and the PIE legislation, it went the route of an interdict. So I think that interdict which Sanral relied on is unconstitutional, and so the whole eviction I would think is also unconstitutional,” he said.

De Vos suspected Sanral may have received legal advice that informed them any attempts to receive an eviction notice would not stand in court, hence the using of the interdict as a means of eviction.

“When you think about evictions, it affects people who really have no where else to go. And the law really needs to have some grace and compassion when it deals with people who have absolutely nothing. You want to protect property rights on the one hand, but you also want to treat people humanly, which didn’t happen in this case,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)   

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