South Africa: Crucial Housing Judgment Still Outstanding After 16 Months. Judiciary Has Failed to Explain Why

Fate of farm dweller facing eviction still in limbo

It’s been 16 months since Acting Judge Bernard Martin reserved judgment in the matter over emergency housing for many destitute families facing evictions in the Drakenstein Municipality.

GroundUp first reported that the judgment was reserved in February 2021.

The case was initially lodged against the Drakenstein Municipality by Eric Lolo, a farm dweller from Wellington. He had been served with an eviction order in 2015 with no emergency accommodation provided for him and his daughter.

Lolo brought the case on behalf of himself and other people living on farms in Drakenstein who find themselves in the same situation. According to court papers, farm dwellers want the municipality to provide adequate emergency housing to people, most of whom are poor farm workers, facing eviction in rural areas.

Evicted farm dwellers have previously been relocated by the municipality to densely populated informal settlements.

The matter was heard in the Western Cape High Court for the first time in August 2020 and the last hearing took place in February 2021. According to judiciary norms and standards, a judge “should make every effort to hand down reserved judgments no later than three months after the date of the last hearing”.

In March this year, Lolo’s legal representatives, JD van der Merwe Attorneys, first raised concerns about the lengthy delay, stating that it is the judge’s duty to deliver reserved judgments diligently and without undue delay.

The attorneys were told via email on 24 May that the ruling would be available by 14 June. But this date has come and gone.

Lolo’s attorneys are yet to get a response from Acting Judge Martin.

The judge’s secretary did not respond to our questions. Judiciary spokesperson Lusanda Ntuli promised to get back to us but did not do so by the time of publication.

Lolo currently still lives on a farm outside Wellington. His eviction matter is still suspended in the Wellington Magistrates Court pending the outcome of the High Court ruling.

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