Last week, the Constitutional Court ruled that judges are no longer legally allowed to issue evictions if it means that those removed from their living spaces will be left homeless.
This landmark judgement came after the Court heard the case of residents from a block of flats in Berea called Kiribilly who were facing eviction. But while the residents agreed to the eviction, they weren’t fully aware of their rights.
When the case was heard in the Johannesburg high court in late 2013 for a court order to be granted, a member of the Johannesburg ward committee agreed to the eviction on behalf of the residents, despite not receiving a mandate from the residents to do so.
Not to mention, many of the residents could not speak English or afford legal representation, which again shed light on the fact that the law needs to be accessible and affordable for all in South Africa.
Eventually, the Socio-Economic Rights Instituion (SERI) took on the case, only to be rejected by the high court and the Supreme Court of Appeal. Ultimately, the Constitutional Court found that the residents did not consent to the eviction, and they did now know about their rights, one of which is that they must have access to alternative temporary housing.
“This is a momentous decision for millions of poor people across South Africa who live with insecure tenure and inadequate housing. As of today, our courts are forbidden from making eviction orders – even if they have been agreed to – until those under threat of eviction are aware of and able to exercise their rights, and until a Judge can be sure no-one will be left out on the streets,” said Nomzamo Zondo, director of litigation at SERI.