High Court upholds HRC's eviction findings
Mpumalanga High Court (Mbombela) Acting Judge Johannes Roelofse has affirmed findings by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) that the conduct of the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (Mega) contributed to the illegal removal of a man from his home.
A News24 report says the matter dates to February, when Francis Tembo assumed the occupation of a unit on land that is now owned by Mega.
The property was owned by his former employer when he first moved in. Tembo paid R300 rent per month until 2015, when Mega increased the rent to R917.
Tembo refused to sign a new lease agreement with Mega ‘based on legal advice he received’ – and also ceased to pay rent.
A woman, identified as Ms Msiza in court documents, subsequently laid claim to the unit that Tembo was occupying.
Roelofse’s ruling states: ‘It appears that the agency created an impression that the agency would lease Mr Tembo's property to Ms Msiza.’
In May 2018, Msiza, accompanied by a mob of people, forcefully evicted Mr Tembo from the property.
The HRC found by offering the property that was already occupied, ‘Mega contributed to the events that culminated in the eviction of Mr Tembo through illegal means by Ms Msiza, with the assistance of the mob’.
The commission also found that Mega failed in its duty in terms of section 7(2) of the Constitution to promote and protect Tembo's right to housing, including his right not to be evicted without a court order.
According to the News24 report, the commission ordered Mega to find Tembo alternative accommodation of the same standard and value as the property from which he was illegally evicted or otherwise take legal action against Ms Msiza for illegally occupying Tembo's property.
It also ordered Mega to subsidise Tembo's rent pending compliance with its directives.
Mega opposed the HRC's directives and challenged the commission in the High Court, says the News24 report.
The agency claimed that the commission ‘committed an error of fact and/or law when it found that engaging in discussions with Ms Msiza with the aim of concluding a lease agreement contributed to the subsequent eviction of Mr Tembo by the mob’.
Mega also challenged the directive to assist Tembo with his accommodation and highlighted that he previously refused to sign a lease agreement with the agency.
However, Roelofse ruled: ‘The findings of the commission are what they are – prima facie findings that Mr Tembo's right to housing was violated through the conduct of the agency.’
However, he explained the finding that the agency did not orchestrate Tembo's eviction, but that its actions – which contributed to Tembo's unlawful eviction – did not constitute a definitive finding that it violated Tembo's rights.
‘That is ultimately for a competent court to decide if called upon to do so,’ he said.
Roelofse dismissed Mega's application and ordered it to pay the costs of the HRC's participation in the matter.
Article disclaimer: While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide final legal advice as facts and situations will differ from case to case, and therefore specific legal advice should be sought with a lawyer.