14 November 2023
Human Rights Lawyers will be taking the City of Tshwane to court after dozens of homeless people were forcefully removed from Burgers Park on Friday.
The group of more than 30 people say metro police had forced them to move from the park and confiscated all of their belongings, including material they used for shelter. Many of them say they have been living at the park since 2020 and rely on recycling and piece jobs to survive.
Head of Lawyers for Human Rights Land, Housing and Property Rights Programme, Louise du Plessis, said the City should be offering to house homeless people in shelters rather than forcefully removing them from spaces without an eviction order.
“They removed them without eviction letters or a court order. It is for this reason that we are taking the City to court. We are busy finalising an urgent application so it should be heard next week,” said du Plessis.
She said they will be asking the court to compel the City to compensate the homeless group for their belongings which were damaged and confiscated by metro police. “They sleep on the pavement near the park and have lost belongings such as personal documents like ID’s and social grants papers.”
Du Plessis said if the City cared about homeless people in the metro, they should work with them to clean up the area. She said they are representing 27 people who have since returned to the space near Burgers Park.
One of them is Thapelo Mogoai who used to live in Soweto. Mogoai, who survives by recycling cans and bottles, said that all his recycling materials were confiscated, and his makeshift tent was destroyed by the officers.
“They went through my bags. I felt so powerless because I didn’t want to lose my bottles so that I could sell them. That’s my money,” he said.
Mogoai said he became homeless after his parents died from Covid in December 2020.
Jacob Masindwa from Klerksdorp in the North West said: “They took my clothes, toiletries, food, ID, and cell phone…For metro police to remove us without a notice proves that we don’t have rights living on the streets.”
Nkosinathi Sikhona from Mabopane said: “I lost many things, bank cards, clothes, luckily I had my ID in my pocket. It rained on Sunday night and made things worse. I had a small shack with cardboard boxes and plastics,” he said.
Sikhona said he dreams of one day owning his own recycling business.
City of Tshwane spokesperson Lindela Mashigo told GroundUp the City could not comment on the matter at this stage. When asked about Lawyers for Human Rights’ application, Mashigo said: “It would be difficult to comment on the legality or illegality of the eviction or whether the City acted lawfully or not. People in general have a right to approach the courts to seek whatever relief they believe they are entitled to. The court will then rule on the matter.”
In October 2022, the City of Tshwane conducted its first homeless count which revealed unemployment is the main cause of homelessness in the city. The number of people counted was 4,177, and of these, 3,408 were questioned during the count.