LRC defend "vulnerable occupiers" from eviction

Our partners at the Legal Resources Centre successfully defended the residents of Pomona Estate informal settlement in Kempton Park last week after eviction notices were filed against them by a community property developer. The case was taken to the Land Claims Court, where the eviction application was dismissed.

According to the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 (ESTA), the residents of Pomona Estate qualify as “vulnerable occupiers” due to their living conditions, informal employment and reliance on social grants. Although the community has applied to the Department of Land Affairs for Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) housing, they have had no response.

The community of 375 households have lived in Pomona Estate lawfully for many years, most since the early 1990’s, and it was only after the land was acquired by a property developer that legal action was taken. After giving notice for all Pomona Estate residents to vacate in October 2006, the developer filed new eviction notices in 2014 and proceeded to cut off residents’ water and electricity.

Residents were accused of “invading” the developer’s property, an allegation which the Court found to be “gravely misleading”, concluding that: “A landowner cannot act in an unrestrained way in relation to property which has been occupied by vulnerable occupiers for extended periods of time.”

During the seven years between the two eviction applications, the state did not adequately research or develop alternative housing for the community. The informal settlement is located in a largely isolated and industrial area, which community spokesperson William Nqaba says makes their situation worse; “People need to know the truth. We are still suffering here, waiting for the government to deliver services to us.”

The property developer intends to take the eviction case to the Supreme Court of Appeal, but in the meantime, the community is hoping for engagement with him and the municipality to find a way forward. The court mandated that there be “meaningful engagement” to resolve the issues.