/ 26 September 2007

Slovo squatters told to appoint lawyers

The Cape High Court has given residents of Cape Town’s Joe Slovo informal settlement, who are opposing eviction, a week to appoint lawyers to represent them.

Over a thousand residents packed the street outside the court on Wednesday morning under the watchful eye of police officers, some carrying signs slating ”capitalist forced removals” and urging the government to ”stop oppressing poor people”.

Housing Minister Linduiwe Sisulu and state-owned developer Thubelisha Homes are seeking an order under eviction legislation that will allow them to clear the ground for more housing at the N2 Gateway project.

According to the state’s legal team, about 3 000 residents have signed individual notices of objection to the application, which was expected to be heard on Wednesday.

Instead, Judge President John Hlophe postponed the matter to October 4 to allow residents to appoint lawyers.

A representative of the Joe Slovo Task Team, Mzwanele Zulu, had asked Hlophe for a six-month postponement, saying the residents were poor and needed time to collect funds to pay for a lawyer.

It emerged during the hearing, however, that some residents have already approached public-benefit attorneys of the Legal Resources Centre, which is weighing up whether it will take the case.

Hlophe on Wednesday also appealed to all the residents to act within the law.

Those who wanted to relocate had a right to move freely without being intimidated by those opposed to moving, he said. Those opposed to a move had a constitutional right to do so, but they had to act within the law.

Two weeks ago, residents clashed with police in a day of violence that led at times to the closure of the N2 highway, which runs past the settlement. – Sapa