To evict? Not to evict?

An escalating topic amongst land owners within the state and the private sector is whether or not eviction of illegal occupants is a violation of Human Rights in South Africa. Is it ok to evict illegal occupants? Is it ok to leave hundreds of families stranded without homes? Indeed this is a very sensitive topic that may lead to future altercations and setbacks in South Africa.

Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, has made a call to all land owners; both state and private, to put on hold all planned evictions of illegal occupants. The Minister pointed out that there needs to be a clear understanding of the laws and basic human rights requirements before any eviction can take place. Minister Sisulu expressed her disappointment towards the evictions that took place in winter saying “when it is cold and while school-going children are writing exams”. Surely evicting people from their homes during winter is a violation of the basic right to shelter? Or perhaps do we blame the people for occupying illegal land in the first place? Is this a case of “two wrongs don’t make a right” or is it simply inhumane?

“As the Minister of Human Settlements I fail to understand why a property owner will receive a court order in summer and wait until winter to effect it. It is inhumane and bad timing, it is totally unacceptable,” she said. It seems that Minister Sisulu is layering her argument based on the timing of the eviction as opposed to the actual eviction. Should a law of protection against wrongfully timed evictions be implemented?

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act states that land and property owners need to take action against illegal occupiers of land and property within six months of the illegal act; should the owner fail to do so, the owner is required to provide temporary accommodation as part of the eviction plan. Is this act enough to base your beliefs on whether or not it is ok to evict illegal occupants? Or should the government consider re-structuring the act? Which side are you on?