KZN high court upholds slums Act

This week KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala “applauded” the provincial government for its controversial Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act as he dismissed an application by shack dwellers to have it declared unconstitutional.

Tshabalala found that the Slums Act did deal with housing matters and that provincial government was within its legislative competence to pass the Act. The shack dweller movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University had contested this, contending that the Slums Act dealt with land issues.

He further found that the Slums Act did “constitute a reasonable legislative response to deal with the plight of the vulnerable in our society” and was in accordance with section 26 of the Constitution.

Tshabalala also dismissed the shack dwellers’ fears that the Act would open them up to large-scale illegal evictions in contravention of the Housing Act and Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act.

The Slums Act provides municipalities with greater powers to monitor informal settlements and to evict inhabitants.
It also allows for evictees to be housed in transit camps while low-costing public housing is built.

It is expected to adopted by other provincial governments in the future.

“This is the first province to have adopted such legislation. The Act makes things more orderly and it must be given a chance to show off its potential,” noted Tshabalala.

Sbu Zikode, president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, said the movement would “abide by the judgement” but intended “appealing it at the Constitutional Court—we are confident of our case there”.

He said shack-dweller fears that the eThekwini municipality would use the Act to evict shack dwellers illegally was warranted: “A recent Cohre [Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions] report showed that all recent evictions in the city have been without court orders; this Act will just make it easier for them to evict shack dwellers.”

Provincial minister of housing Mike Mabuyakhulu said his departments was “vindicated” by the ruling and would “intensify efforts to rid the province of informal settlements by providing our people with decent houses”.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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