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Tuesday Mar 17, 2015

Informal settlers ask court to halt Tshwane property auction

Thousands of people living at Tshwane's Woodlane Village, also known as Plastic View, were only allowed to live in the informal settlement by way of a court order and had no legal right to be there.

The occupants, assisted by Lawyers for Human Rights, have filed an urgent high court application to halt the imminent auction of the Moreleta Park-based settlement.

They have asked the court to review and set aside the decision by the City of Tshwane to auction more than 80 of its properties with a combined value of R500 million, including Plastic View, as reported in the Pretoria News yesterday.

However, Tshwane mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale said the city would defend the application, expected to be heard within the next few days. The properties are supposed go under the hammer next Tuesday in Hyde Park.

Manale said the Plastic View land had been illegally occupied, and the city couldn't succeed in removing the residents.

In 2012, the city was ordered by the high court to establish a township, and Manale said affected parties had been in negotiations since to find a workable solution. The order at the time allowed the villagers to settle at Woodlane Village, while the city, surrounding ratepayers' associations and other stakeholders worked to find a solution.

"We are in advanced negotiations with Lawyers for Human Rights discussing available options when the land is sold on auction. We remain committed to the disposal of the land parcel via our land release programme," he explained.

"In addition, we hold the view that the overall benefits of the sale of Plastic View will be good for the greater development needs of our people. It is on this basis that we will defend these actions in court."

The intention of the city was to negotiate a resettlement plan to avoid a legal confrontation with the residents, he said, which could result in a court order for temporary accommodation. But the complexity of the issue is that some of the residents in Plastic View, like many other illegal informal settlements, may not qualify for rental or social housing intervention options. "The perpetuation of illegal occupation of land followed by the sprawling of informal settlement is a matter the city has grappled withÂ…

"We note with concern that some of the interdict applications are aimed at challenging the overall policy rather than on specific land parcels," said Manale.

For example, the Plastic View case was premised on the view and insistence that the city should prioritise housing developments for the poor. Such a broad objection translated beyond a legal standing but rather socio-economic demands which couldn't hold in a court of law, he added.

"We also believe that public interest law groups such as Lawyers for Human Rights have pursued an agenda of raising expectations of residents and while raking in huge legal fees from municipalities defending illegal land occupiers and hijackers of state land and dilapidated buildings."

He said the Constitutional Court ruling on the Schubart Park matter remained a point in reference where the city continued to spend huge amounts of public funds on accommodation for people who under different conditions would not be receiving such service at that rate and cost.

Pretoria News


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