/ 13 December 2007

Joe Slovo ‘relocation’ in court’s hands

The proposed relocation of residents of Joe Slovo informal settlement is a bid to reverse century-old wrongs, the Cape High Court was told on Thursday.

Cape Judge President John Hlophe was hearing an application by provincial authorities for permission to relocate the community, currently living in shacks alongside Cape Town’s N2 highway.

The province says it wants to relocate the 20 000 residents temporarily to Delft on the Cape Flats.

Mike Donen, senior counsel for Western Cape housing minister Richard Dyantyi, told the judge the application is unique, as it is the first time the high court is being asked to take control of the relocation of an entire community.

”It is historic because this concerns an attempt by a democratic government to reverse the wrongs that happened in this country nearly 100 years ago,” he argued.

Donen said it is churlish to refer to the relocation as a ”forced removal”, as has been done. Case law on the question of evictions and relocations of this magnitude is non-existent, he said.

The difficulty for the court is the legal dilemma resulting from the constitutional right of an individual to adequate housing. The state has to use reasonable means, with limited resources, to realise this right.

”No one may be evicted without an order of court,” Donan said.

Evictions are permitted by the court, but only after it has considered all the relevant circumstances. ”This is not eviction as such, as it involves relocation.”

Donen said negotiations and consultations between the government and the Joe Slovo residents have reached deadlock, and the court is required to resolve the deadlock.

The intended relocation relates to the practical difficulties in developing the Joe Slovo area, and the court has to determine how far it will allow the government to go.

He said the purpose of the intended development is to place individuals in houses that cost R50 000 each. At present, the residents live in overcrowded conditions, in unsafe shacks made from wood, plastic and corrugated iron.

”The occupants of Joe Slovo will move from their present insecurity to secure tenure,” Donen said.

Hlophe reserved judgement. — Sapa