Court chaos over Delft eviction order

Pandemonium broke out in the Cape High Court on Wednesday after Judge Deon van Zyl granted an order for the eviction of people illegally occupying houses still under construction in Delft on the Cape Flats.

The homes, some still under construction, are intended for residents at the Joe Slovo informal settlement, who are to be relocated to Delft.

The eviction order stated that those illegally occupying the houses had to vacate the properties by midnight on Sunday February 17.

Van Zyl said he could not consider the request by counsel Andre Coetzee that they be given a month to find other accommodation.

The judge ruled in favour of the eviction after senior counsel Steve Kirk-Cohen, representing the developer of the N2 Gateway Project, told the court: “The rule of law must prevail, no matter the hardship.”

The judge said it was always agony to grant an eviction order, and that judges hated doing so.

However, he said the court could never allow people to take the law into their own hands as the unlawful Delft occupiers had done.

He also said the only way that the country could succeed in achieving a stable community was for people to exercise patience and give their full cooperation concerning the provision of housing for the poor.

All day, hundreds of people had chanted and protested outside the court building to stop the evictions.

Immediately after the order was granted, a man seated in the press bench who seemed to be a leader in the Delft community jumped to his feet to address the court angrily.

Van Zyl asked who he was, and the man replied that he was one of the occupiers.

As the man addressed the Bench angrily, people in the packed courtroom applauded him and turned the courtroom into chaos.

Van Zyl rose and walked calmly out of the courtroom.

Shocking situation

Earlier, the judge said that City of Cape Town Democratic Alliance councillor Frank Martins’s encouragement of homeless people to occupy illegally homes still under construction was irresponsible and almost reckless.

The eviction application was launched jointly by the Western Cape provincial minister for local government and housing, state housing contractor Thubelisha Homes, Seakay Engineering Services and Trans Gariep Infra.

The application was launched against the “various unlawful occupiers of houses at Delft Symphony”, the City of Cape Town and Martin himself.

Van Zyl said the illegal occupation amounted to the occupiers taking the law into their own hands. The correct approach would have been to consider mediation to enable the illegal occupiers to understand what was happening in terms of housing policy.

Referring to Martins’s encouragement, the judge said: “This was an instigation, and had this not happened we would not have been in court today.
It is a shocking situation.”

Debating at the time whether an eviction order should be granted, the judge added: “You cannot have justice and equity without being reasonable as well.”

Counsel Andre Coetzee, representing the illegal occupiers, urged the court to allow the occupiers a month to find other accommodation, if the court ruled eviction appropriate.—Sapa

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