Sisulu drafting amendments to eviction laws

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu received ​the Lwandle Commission report from Commission ​chairman Denzil Potgieter ​at Parliament in October 2014. Photo by Daneel Knoetze.

Daneel Knoetze

4 February 2015

Minister for Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu is in the process of drafting amendments to eviction legislation, in line with the report of the commission of inquiry into the Lwandle evictions last year.

The report, recently published online, recommends wide amendments to law and policy to curb illegal evictions in the future.

Ministerial spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya said Sisulu had written to the institutions affected by the report to urge the adoption of recommendations relating to them. She was also in the process of drafting amendments to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) legislation.

If implemented, the Lwandle report’s recommendations will go some way towards further protecting the Constitutional right to a home of people threatened with eviction. The commission of inquiry, set up by Sisulu in the days after violent evictions at Lwandle in Strand in June 2014, has suggested that new clauses be written into the PIE Act. These include a compulsory report to the courts on the availability of alternative accommodation and on the way an eviction order, if granted, will affect the Constitutional rights of evictees.

Magistrates, police and sheriffs should receive training in “rights” and “duties” in relation to PIE and organs of state should refrain from using interdicts against further settlement as de facto eviction orders, the report recommends.

The report also places the onus on landowners to secure their property against occupation and, in the event of occupation, to engage with people living on their land to find an alternative solution to avoid an eviction. The land owner in Lwandle, the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), had failed in both these respects, the commission found.

The police were “aggressive” in their approach and not willing to sufficiently negotiate with the community while enforcing the Lwandle evictions. The enforcement was found to have been unlawful, because there was no eviction order to enforce. In future, the commission recommends, the police should:

Finally, the commission’s findings touched on debates about the origin and intentions of the people who occupied the Sanral-owned land. The City of Cape Town had alleged that “many of those residents who settled on SANRAL land … were actively encouraged by Ses’khona”. But the commission could not find any evidence of this, and concluded that most of the evictees had settled on the site to escape high rent and adverse living conditions elsewhere.

Kate Tissington, a senior researcher with the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) who gave evidence to the commission, welcomed the report.

“The report clearly sets out government support for a number of key issues, including the importance of meaningful engagement, alternative solutions to avoid evictions, the provision of alternative accommodation, and local government reporting to the court in the case of mass evictions. These issues are finally getting the high-level attention needed to prevent devastating evictions of the kind witnessed at Lwandle in June 2014,” she said.