Court interdict follows evictions, fire in Pretoria

Residents of the Schubart and Kruger Park flats in Pretoria obtained an urgent Pretoria High Court interdict on Tuesday to stop their eviction.

This followed an outbreak of violence and the deaths of at least six residents when a fire broke out in the Kruger Park flats during protests against forced evictions.

Judge Ferdi Preller granted an interim order to stop evictions from continuing at the flats for now. Residents who claim they were not aware of eviction orders against them will have until Friday to place facts before the court.

Preller granted an interim interdict against four of the residents—who claimed to be leaders of the residents’ committee—to stop them from inciting violence.

The judge said he was reluctant to allow people who ignored eviction orders granted against them because they were not paying their rent to “enjoy the fruits of their illegal actions”.

However, the violence had to be stopped and hundreds of innocent people protected.

The CEO of the administrators of the buildings, Matome Gaffane, in court papers accused the four of being the “ringleaders” who incited other residents to join them in causing mayhem.

“They have appointed themselves as ‘the resident committee’ and have been collecting rent from other tenants,” Gaffane said. “Should any of the tenants refuse to pay them, they intimidate the tenants and threaten them with their lives.”

While residents brought an urgent application to stop the evictions, the Tshwane city council in turn asked for the “ringleaders” to be prohibited from entering the buildings and to incite violence or interfere with the management of the building.

The chairperson of the residents’ committee, Aubrey Ramotlhale, in court papers accused Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa of making “extremely irresponsible and inflammatory statements” in the media.

He said these statements were to the effect that the city would evict all the residents and was under no obligation to provide alternative accommodation.

He claimed most residents had stopped paying rent due to the complete deterioration of the buildings, with lifts that no longer worked, an intermittent electricity supply and the whole place becoming “dangerously unhealthy”.

Counsel for the residents, Rudolph Jansen, said the eviction of 38 residents, against whom eviction orders had been obtained, happened in the context of the clearing of the whole building.

It would be best for the council to step back for a while as further evictions would only result in more violence, he said.

He said there had been a march to the mayor’s office last week, where certain undertakings regarding mediation were given, which were not complied with.

“To start with evictions under the circumstances was looking for trouble ... There is no urgent, pressing need for the city council to evict people today.”

Counsel for the city, advocate Nicolene van Nieuwenhuizen, said only 38 of the occupants had been listed for eviction because they were not paying their rent. Court orders were granted against them, and the rest of the 1 338 units’ residents were not being evicted.

A process would be put into place and time given for the others to move out or find alternative accommodation, she said.—Sapa

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