Court asked to oversee Drakenstein Municipality emergency housing plan

“The situation was allowed to continue for 20 years and those directly affected are particularly vulnerable”, says advocate

By Liezl Human

6 August 2020

The case brought by Eric Lolo (above) against the Drakenstein Municipality and the provincial department of Human Settlements continues in the Western Cape High Court. Archive photo: Barbara Maregele

An advocate representing a Wellington farm dweller has asked the court to order the Drakenstein Municipality to report on the steps it has taken to address the emergency housing crisis in the region.

“The Municipality must be required to set out what steps it is taking to address the situation. In a report it should provide timelines so that it can be held to account, as to when those steps will be taken,” said advocate Pete Hathorn, arguing in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

Hathorn argued that the municipality breached its constitutional and statutory obligations by not taking reasonable steps to provide emergency housing for mostly evicted farm dwellers living within its area of jurisdiction.

GroundUp reported that in 2015, Lolo was served with an eviction order from Greenwillows Properties, which owns Langkloof Roses farm in Wellington, where Lolo was staying with his daughter, Berenice Fransman, and her child.

Lolo is acting as a representative of many farm dwellers in the region who have had similar experiences. In the court application the lawyers note that evictions in the area have reached “crisis proportions” and that there is “a dire shortage of emergency housing for evictees”. The purpose of the court hearing is to hold the municipality to account for the manner in which it implements its emergency housing, according to Hathorn.

On Wednesday, Hathorn told the court that Lolo was not seeking to dictate what the municipality should do in terms of the eviction crisis but rather to ask the court to have a supervisory role to ensure the municipality follows through with a plan to address the problem.

“The situation was allowed to continue for 20 years and those directly affected are particularly vulnerable. They do not have access to the resources needed to conduct litigation of this nature,” said Hathorn.

He also said that the municipality was relying on an emergency housing policy created in 2013, which was no longer adequate to address the current situation.

“If the municipality acts diligently and reasonably it will have no cause for concern. These are no new or unforeseen obligations. These are long-standing obligations which the municipality has not complied with.”

The case continues in court on Thursday.