ConCourt gives reasons for dismissing Saratoga case

The Constitutional Court on Thursday handed down reasons for its order made on March 30, when it dismissed an application to force the City of Johannesburg to say what its plans are to relocate a group of residents from a private property in Saratoga Avenue.

It said the court was the inappropriate forum in which to bring the application.

The court had not previously indicated that it intended to regulate and oversee the execution of an order made in December last year.As a result, the residents who challenged that order should have applied to the High Court.

In December, the court declared the city’s housing policy unconstitutional because it had not budgeted for, or made allowance for, emergency accommodation. The city was ordered to provide temporary occupation to those residents whose names appeared on a survey of the building completed in 2008. Residents were ordered to vacate the premises by no later than April 15.

However, the residents, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, applied for a two-month extension of the eviction date.

They also wanted the city to provide accommodation to a larger group of people. These (extra) residents alleged that although they were not listed on the survey, they were entitled to be accommodated through their relationship with a person listed on the survey – either as partners, siblings or relatives.

The residents further alleged that the city would not be able to comply with the original order and had not meaningfully engaged with the residents to provide temporary occupation.

But on Thursday, the court ruled the residents could not show non-compliance as their order was launched before the city was obliged to provide temporary accommodation.

The city had unequivocally assured the court that it would provide accommodation in time.

The court held that it was not necessary for it to find whether meaningful engagement was a substantive requirement, since the residents would not be rendered homeless. But even if meaningful engagement was necessary, the failure of the city and the residents to engage meaningfully with the property owner, Blue Moonlight Properties, was another reason why the application could not succeed.

At the hearing in March, the city said it had been working on complying with its obligation to those residents listed on the survey.

It was also working out a way of dealing with other people facing eviction. – Sapa

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