By Karen Breytenbach 3 September 2009, 19:43 – Cape Argus
In an unusual move by the Constitutional Court, a full bench of 10 judges has indefinitely suspended its own order for Joe Slovo residents and backyard dwellers to make way for the N2 Gateway development in a phased in, deadline-driven mass relocation.
This came as the court granted Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela the opportunity to commission an expert to investigate the “practical, social, financial and legal consequences” of the ordered relocation to Delft.
“For the community, and indeed all parties involved, this is a welcome opportunity to seek a workable solution,” said Steve Kahanovitz, the Legal Resources Centre attorney representing the 20 000 strong community resisting the eviction application by the Minister of Housing.
The matter had a long court history and the development plan was redesigned a few times, but in June the Constitutional Court finally made a ruling on it.
It directed the state to provide 70% of the low-cost housing to be built at Joe Slovo to former or current residents who applied and qualified for housing.
The residents were ordered to vacate in phases according to a schedule, but only on condition that they would be relocated to sturdy temporary residential units services with tarred roads and communal ablution facilities, at Delft or another suitable location.
The residents, the national minister, MEC and Thubelisha Homes (which no longer exists but whose responsibilities have been partly taken over by the National Housing Agency), were ordered to “engage meaningfully with each other” by June 30 to reach an agreement on all relevant issues regarding the relocation.
The Court however issued a new order last month after it considered a memorandum lodged by counsel for the Minister of Housing on August 4, 2009.
In the memorandum Michael Donan SC explained that the parties did meet on several occasions, but no agreement could be reached.
The Minister requested an extension so the parties could engage further and the MEC requested a postponement of the implementation, having expressed “grave concerns” about a variety of consequences of the relocation.
The MEC said he was concerned about the fact that the Concourt made no provisions for what would happen to the other 30% who had to be moved to the Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) housing but who could not be moved back to the permanent housing at Joe Slovo as soon as the project was completed.
He also had questions about the density of the proposed development and the social, financial and legal effects of this massive relocation.
The MEC said if the expert confirmed that the relocation would give rise to unforeseen difficulties, those difficulties had to be addressed before implementation.
All the parties agreed to his request for time until September 30 to deliver a report.
Acceding to this request, the judges said they would suspend their initial order “until further notice”.
“Once the report referred to… has been received, further directions may be issued.”
# Read the full story in the print edition of Cape Times