South Africa 8.10.2014 01:39 pm

Lwandle report handed to Lindiwe Sisulu

FILE PICTURE: A family sits next to demolished shacks on June 3, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. Hundreds of Nomzamo Informal Settlement residents were left out in the cold after authorities evicted them from the area, saying they are illegally occupying privately owned land. The land belongs to Sanral and is designated for the rerouting of the N2. Picture: Gallo Images / The Times / Thomas Holder.

FILE PICTURE: A family sits next to demolished shacks on June 3, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. Hundreds of Nomzamo Informal Settlement residents were left out in the cold after authorities evicted them from the area, saying they are illegally occupying privately owned land. The land belongs to Sanral and is designated for the rerouting of the N2. Picture: Gallo Images / The Times / Thomas Holder.

Whether the inquiry into the mass eviction of more than 800 families from Sanral land at Lwandle near Somerset West earlier this year will result in the sanction or censure of authorities or officials involved is likely to emerge in a fortnight.

The report was handed to Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu at Parliament on Wednesday.

Accepting the 296-page document from advocate Denzil Potgieter, who headed the inquiry she set up after the evictions on June 2 and 3, the minister said she would spend the next week studying the report.

The week after that, it would be sent to Parliament’s human settlements portfolio committee, which would examine its recommendations, Sisulu said.

Responding to a question, Potgieter declined to say whether the report fingered either individual officials or institutions whose actions, or lack of action, resulted in 839 families, including children, being turfed out of their shacks in mid-winter.

“Obviously we’ve investigated and made findings, which obviously we’re not at liberty to disclose at this juncture. But we’ve made findings. We’re happy that we got a fair idea of what took place.

“And we’re happy that we’ve dealt with that and made appropriate recommendations. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to disclose to you who has been fingered, sanctioned and so on,” he said.

Earlier, Potgieter listed recommendations in the report.

“In terms of recommendations, the inquiry has identified certain legal shortcomings — legislative shortcomings — that need attention.”

These included recommendations for “appropriate amendments” to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Prevention of Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, the so-called PIE act.

“We recommend you consider… the need for a probation officer’s report to be submitted to court with regard to pending eviction applications,” he told Sisulu.

This should take into account the availability of suitable alternative accommodation for those evicted.

Another recommendation was that when granting an eviction order, the court should take into account the extent to which the property owner had taken steps to avoid or prevent unlawful occupation of the property.

Potgieter said the report also contained recommendations regarding the education and training of the courts, police and sheriffs in matters involving evictions.

“Training with regard to the PIE act would be advantageous.”

The education of communities concerning their rights and duties in the context of unlawful occupation of land was also recommended.

Potgieter also criticised the use of an anti-invasion interdict, issued by a court, being used as an eviction order.

“In view of the peculiar circumstances of this [eviction] — utilising so-called invasion interdicts… as a de facto eviction order — we recommend that organs of state should be discouraged from this practice.”

Doing so circumvented provisions of the PIE act.

There were also recommendations to help sheriffs deal with mass evictions.

Potgieter said the inquiry had extensive interactions with the SA Police Service.

“We’ve identified certain shortcomings [regarding the police and mass evictions] and made certain recommendations in this regard.”

Potgieter said the inquiry had enjoyed substantial public support, though the absence of both the provincial government and the City of Cape Town from the public hearings had “hampered” its work.

“It is to be noted… that the refusal by the government of the Western Cape, particularly the provincial department of human settlements and the City of Cape Town, to participate in the public hearings, has to an extent hampered the work of the inquiry.”

Potgieter said both parties had declined to accept an invitation to the public hearing, though they had sent written submissions.

The public hearings had gathered very valuable material for the inquiry.

“So it is in that sense we are saying that potentially there might have been further benefit if they had participated in that process.”

Sapa

 

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