Victory for Abahlali against the Slums Act

Congratulations to Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement (AbM) for their perseverance and belief in their rights and non-violence. After being subjected to “political violence and shameless slander” over the last two weeks, there is reason to celebrate. The Constitutional Court (CC) of South Africa have today declared the provincial KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act (Slums Act) unconstitutional.

Specifically, the CC declared section 16 of the Slums Act is unconstitutional and invalid. This section makes it compulsory for municipalities to institute proceedings for eviction of unlawful occupiers where the owner or person in charge of the land fails to do so within the time prescribed by the MEC. The applicants argued that section 16 of the Slums Act is in violation of section 26(2) of the Constitution in three ways: it precludes meaningful engagement between municipalities and unlawful occupiers; it violates the principle that evictions should be a measure of last resort; and it undermines the precarious tenure of unlawful occupiers by allowing the institution of eviction proceedings while ignoring the procedural safeguards inherent in the PIE Act. Without section 16, the Slums Act is rendered ineffective.

The application in Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA and Another v Premier of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal and Others was first brought by AbM and its president, Sibusiso Zikode, in the Durban High Court in February 2008. The case was heard before Tshabalala JP on 6 November 2008. AbM challenged section 16 of the Act specifically, which they contend bypasses the national Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE Act), particularly safeguards in the Act which protect unlawful occupiers from eviction.

The Constitutional Court win affirms AbM’s interpretation of the Act and means that a repressive and constitutionally inconsistent piece of legislation is now inoperable and will not be replicated in other provinces. Continue Reading…….