Supreme Court hears appeal against interim interdict in Cape Town eviction case

For Immediate Release

15 November 2021

Supreme Court hears appeal against interim interdict in Cape Town eviction case

 The Legal Resources Centre will be in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in the matter of the City of Cape Town v The South African Human Rights Comission and Others today. More than a year since the eviction of Bulelani Qolani from his home, the precarity and horror of homelessness in Cape Town still remains an important issue constitutionally, especially so in the middle of a global pandemic. The case before the SCA deals with an appeal by the City of Cape Town against the interim relief granted by the Western Cape High Court in Part A of the matter.

History of the matter:

The LRC acted for three applicants: the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Housing Assembly and Mr Bulelani Qolani, in the case before the Western Cape High Court.

The matter was launched as a result of the spate of evictions in the Cape metropole, despite a clear moratorium on evictions and demolitions during the national state of disaster. The assault and eviction of Mr Bulelani Qolani on 1 July 2020 – which was caught on video – was very telling of the brutality of evictions that had been taking place in the metropole. The SAHRC, the Housing Assembly and Mr Qolani launched application proceedings for the court’s intervention in the constant evictions. The application was brought in two parts: Part A sought an interdict against the evictions and demolitions that took place without an order of court during the national state of disaster and Part B, which sought a declaration of the common law principle of counterspoliation as unconstitutional.

The interim interdict sought by the applicants in Part A of the matter was granted by the Western Cape High Court on 25 August 2020. This interdict temporarily prohibited the City of Cape Town from conducting evictions and demolitions of occupied and unoccupied structures without an order of court for the remainder the national state of disaster. The judgment also directed that where the South African Police Service (SAPS) are present during an eviction, they have a duty to protect the dignity of those evicted and to ensure that the evictions are conducted lawfully. The City was further interdicted from adjudicating and awarding a tender for the demolition of “illegal and informal structures” in the Cape metropole. It is this judgment that is the subject of appeal before the SCA today.

The crisp issue for determination by the SCA is whether, under the circumstances and with the facts before the court, it was appropriate for the Western Cape High Court to grant the interdict. The City contends that with the facts before the high court and the circumstances that the court had to contend with, the requirements for granting the interdict had not been met. It is therefore asking the court to set aside the interdict as it stands so it can continue to apply counterspoliation as a means of protecting its property. The applicants hold the view that the Western Cape High Court aptly granted the interdict.

Part B of the matter was concluded before a full bench of the Western Cape High Court on 5 November 2021.

Currently, the SCA is seeking submissions on the mootness of the matter as the arguments put forward by the City partly relate to Part B and specifically, counterspoliation, for which we are still awaiting judgment.

The LRC is grateful for the generosity of Legal Aid South Africa for co-funding this litigation.

[ENDS]

Issued by the Legal Resources Centre

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Cell: 068 584 2442/Email: thabo@lrc.org.za