Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale says that it is “painful” when the judiciary passes a judgement that amounts to “legalisation of illegality”.
Responding to an Engineering News question last week, he pointed out that the Bill of Rights and the recent Grootboom judgement must not be seen as a way to protect criminality.
“We have case law that states that, when people raid a piece of land, we cannot move them until we find alternative accommodation that has all the basic services, such as water, sewerage and electricity,” said Sexwale.
It remained an illegal act to occupy land, he said, adding that the judgement did not appear to take that into full consideration.
He was concenred that people were occupying land intentionally, knowing that government would then be forced to move them to places where basic services were available.
“The National Treasury has not budgeted for this [cost], which is [the result of] an unlawful and illegal act, but case law has legalised it.”
Sexwale cited a judgement handed down in 2008 to an eviction application by Blue Moon Light Properties 39 against the occupiers of Saratoga Avenue and the City of Johannesburg.
In its judgement, the Johannesburg High Court ordered the City of Johannesburg to say what it would do to provide the occupiers with alternative housing; they were being evicted by a private property developer.
For up to 18 years, the residents have lived in disused industrial and commercial buildings in Saratoga Avenue, Berea. In 2005, a property development company bought the land they were living on, and a year later launched an application for the residents’ eviction.
“It is a constraint when the courts order you to find alternative accommodation, which has a cost factor. The city has to pay for every- thing that is illegal. This case is detrimental to national accounts. Government has to pay rent for people who are hijacking space,” explained Sexwale.
He noted that this was the law of unintended consequences as the judgement had serious negative consequences for moving people that occupied a building illegally.
“That is why we are challenging such cases. While we respect the judge’s decision, illegality or unlawfulness cannot be made legal.”