“The world is disgracefully managed, one hardly knows to whom to complain.” – Ronald Firbank (1886 – 1926)
A High Court order which evicted a number of men, women and children from a certain block of flats in Jeppe Street, Johannesburg which they unlawfully occupied, gave the City of Johannesburg six months to make suitable arrangements to provide them with temporary shelter. eight months later, the court suspended the first order to allow the City more time to make the required arrangements. When neither order was complied with, an application was made for a further order that would hold the executive Mayor, City Manager and director of Housing of Johannesburg personally responsible for ensuring that the City adhered to the earlier order.
Judge Kathy Satchwell set out the position:
“The obligation to shelter the occupiers has not been suddenly sprung upon the City of Johannesburg. Nothing has leapt out of the blue. There has been a gradual process of enlightenment. There has been opportunity to absorb both the general and specific import of the court decision. There has been opportunity to understand and appreciate the role which the City is required to play in sheltering these occupiers. There has been opportunity to prepare the appropriate response to the obligations which the Constitution and our courts have placed upon the City.”
The City had to act in a constitutional and professional manner and could not simply throw up its hands and cry “impossible task”. Judge Satchwell ordered that the City and its officials were obliged to comply with the earlier court orders, directed them to take the required administrative steps, suspended the eviction order of the occupiers pending compliance by the officials with the judge’s directions and ordered the City of Johannesburg to pay the costs of the application on the punitive scale as between attorney and client.
This case is a good example of the Judicial arm of government exercising its powers to compel the executive arm of government, in this case at Municipal level, to meet its constitutional and legal obligations not only in the interests of those it is required to serve, but also to ensure compliance with the rule of law. The judge went further and said that if the City officials failed again to comply with her orders, the occupiers were given leave to enrol the application again on five days’ notice for a hearing on and determination of any complaint for contempt of court or claims for constitutional damages.
Hlope & Others v. City of Johannesburg & Others 2013 (4) SA 212 (GSJ).
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