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Thursday Nov 08, 2012

Illegal property occupiers get away with it

While the government continues to build houses for certain identified beneficiaries, it is not uncommon for destitute individuals and families, who are not recognised as beneficiaries in accordance with government's policy and waiting lists, to resort to self-help and "illegally" occupy houses.

The illegal occupation denies the beneficiaries who were promised housing, often forcing the government to take legal steps to evict the illegal occupants.

Given the arbitrary processes or bungling that takes place in bureaucratic departments when identifying beneficiaries, is it justified to evict the illegal occupiers?

How does one compare or justify competing compelling circumstances of poor people in compiling a waiting list? What ought to happen to the evictees who are themselves vulnerable - single mothers, grandmothers, pensioners and children who have no choice but to take occupation of houses built or in the process of completion?

While in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables "the guillotine is the ultimate expression of Law, and its name is vengeance..." left to the government, especially municipalities and their officials, people are relegated to homelessness, decrepit, unsafe and unhygienic living conditions.

This appears to be the "punishment" for unlawful occupiers for "jumping the queue". Councillors and members of parliament and the provincial legislatures, with a few notable exceptions, are too preoccupied with heftier matters.

The poor must fend for themselves against endemic greed, corruption, incompetence and excessive squandering of resources.

The integrity of the listing and allocation process was compromised and prevented a just and equitable solution to granting the evictions.

The municipality failed to apply itself to each individual unlawful occupier's circumstances.

"The unlawfulness of occupation of applicants' land and dwellings cannot set such occupiers apart from all other South Africans, who also desire the acknowledgment of their right to a dignified life.

"Homelessness is a combination of a multiplicity of factors, some structural and some personal. The homeless, and even those who apparently acted unlawfully [I say "apparently" because, although the respondents apparently conceded unlawfulness in occupation, it has subsequently emerged that a significant proportion (perhaps a majority) of the respondents are to remain in lawful occupation in Eden Park 5.] may not be the beneficiaries of housing allocations, but they are the beneficiaries of constitutional and other rights.

"At the very least, the applicants must be able to show why the law requires each individual to be evicted and a court must know why it is 'just and equitable' to order an eviction in respect of each respondent and family members. In the present case, I am not satisfied that such certainty exists."

Judge Satchwell dismissed the application to evict the unlawful occupiers with costs.

Tenant Issues
Dr Sayed Iqba

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