The Ministry of Human Settlements-sanctioned enquiry into the recent eviction of destitute illegal residents on SANRAL-owned in Lwandle near Stellenbosch, Cape Town has come to the end of the first round of oral submissions. The first round of hearings focussed on the institutions and entities that had a direct role in the evictions. The second round will focus on community members who were directly affected by the evictions.
According to Deon Burger, the Sheriff of the High Court in the Western Cape Region on Tuesday, a court interdict was used to remove the illegal residents in Lwandle and the undertaking was not an eviction. Justifying his statement, Mr Burger continued: “An interdict is an ongoing thing which remains intact, and an eviction order stops.”
The key part of the Sheriff’s testimony was to give the inquiry a report about the events leading to the evictions. Chairperson of the inquiry, Advocate Denzil Potgieter, said he did not at any point come across the word “eviction” while reading the issued court order. Burger also said during the enquiry that the order allowed for the removal of people, structures, and materiasl that came onto the land after the 24th of January.
Vusi Tshose, the spokesperson of the enquiry, reiterated that the main purpose of the enquiry was to provide the Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu with information from the enquiry members pertaining to what happened leading up to the eviction of people and expressed delight that this was achieved. “The inquiry is very progressive because people have come forward. Now we will be going to the community to take statements not the actual hearing,” he said.
In his testimony, Burger also said he met with the relevant stakeholders like the city of Cape Town and law enforcement officials on the 28th of January 2014 to discuss the “big task” ahead of them.
The chairperson of inquiry said he was convinced that the Sheriff did not clearly understand the conditions entailed in the court order and asked Burger if he was performing an eviction.“I was acting on behalf of an order that came from court because of illegal occupants,” replied Burger.
Sanral Lawyer Fiona Bester also gave a report to the inquiry on Tuesday. She claims that there was frequent communication between the City of Cape Town and Sanral as far as the eviction issue was concerned. In response, Advocate Potgieter criticised Sanral for lacking compassion by removing destitute people from their homes during the winter season. Bester rebutted that Sanral had indeed taken the human factor into account, which is why notices were issued prior to the eviction.
It arose that on the 28th of March, a Sanral lawyer issued a notice to Burger to remove the illegal occupants residing on the settlement in Lwandle. Burger added that after this lawyers went back to court to ask for an extension of the court interdict. “Due to the elections, police were not able to assist with the eviction. Then after the elections, they were busy with other parliamentary duties,” he said.
The inquiry, set up by Minister of Human Settlement Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, has been given until the 5th of August to finalise a report.
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