City of Cape Town loses yet another ground-breaking court case
Singabalapha Press release, 7 October 2020
It is with the greatest of gratitude that we, the movement known as Singabalapha (We Belong Here), write this press release in celebration of the Cape High Court’s decision to interdict the City of Cape Town from confiscating our personal property, harassing or abusing us, and from evicting us without a court order. Hockey AJ, finding against the City, also ordered them to pay the costs of application.
For us, this past year has been a year of hell. Not just because of Covid-19. But also because our struggle against our unjust eviction from an old age home in Observatory exactly one year ago has forced us onto the streets, where we had to to build our homes on the grass opposite KFC, and live in constant in fear of harassment and victimisation at the hands of the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement.
We have stood strong against the odds, despite the government’s refusal to provide us with basic services like water, electricity, and ablution facilities. Against it all, we stayed out here on the pavement: young and old, women and children, sick and unemployed.
Acting Judge Selwyn Hockey agreed with our version of events, singling out Richard Bosman from the City for giving “credence to the argument that the whole purpose of the operation [by Law Enforcement] was to harass the residents to an extent that they would move on their own accord”. Indeed, harassment included at least six visits by the Displaced People’s Unit in three months, and being woken up early in the morning with threats of fines, removal of our property, and ultimately our eviction.
Yesterday, the court came to the decision that the City cannot use its by-laws to circumvent the Protection from Illegal Evictions (PIE) Act. In the judgment, Hockey AJ further notes that our wonderful advocate, Zeynab Titus, “correctly argue[s] that the City is using the street by-laws as a quick fix to persistently harass the residents so they will eventually succumb to the pressure and vacate the settlement.”
Hockey finds that this is illegal and tantamount to the City forcing us to evict ourselves, in clear violation of Section 26 of the Constitution.
In response to the judgement, our attorney, Lucien Lewin, writes that “I am extremely satisfied with the judgment granted by the honourable acting-judge Selwyn Hockey. It has vindicated my clients’ version of what actually transpired when the City attempted to force their eviction from their homes during level 4 lock-down – a version which the City has strenuously denied under oath. Hopefully, the City will reconsider the manner in which it deals with persons living in informal settlements, and refrain from the kind of ‘constructive eviction’ which they have attempted to perpetrate against the residents of Singabalapha.”
The court’s decision is welcomed, not only for ourselves, but also for all those who find themselves in the same situation as ours. Our hearts are with you. We all belong here!
Since lock-down, the City of Cape Town has lost a number of ground-breaking court cases relating to the eviction of shack-dwellers and other poor, vulnerable residents of Cape Town. It is time that the City stop abusing us, and start providing the poor with adequate decent public housing in the inner city.
To all the organisations and individuals that have been with us in this battle: words cannot fully express our thankfulness. But we would especially like to thank the interventions in this court case by Community Chest, the Observatory Civic Association, ObsCAN and SAHRC monitor Tauriq Jenkins, who brought affidavits that were essential to exposing the City lies.
Finally, we thank our comrades who have been with us in solidarity. Thank you to the Housing Assembly, Reclaim the City, #WeSeeYou, Tshisimani and others.
Barbara Vuza: 0710898356
Sinazo Jordan: 0787804406
Khululekile Banzi: 073 282 6015