Mngomezulu v Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality (079/2018) [2019] ZASCA 91

5th June 2019

Mngomezulu v Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality (079/2018) [2019] ZASCA 91

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[1] The appellant, Mr Mngomezulu, appeals against an order of the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court (Pillay J), hereafter the High Court, in terms of which his claim against the respondent for damages, based on alleged unlawful demolition of his informal dwelling and being shot by the respondent’s functionaries, was dismissed. The appeal is with leave of the High Court.

[2] On 28 March 2013 the Member of the Executive Council for Human Settlements and Public Works for the Province of KwaZulu-Natal (MEC), having experienced an increase in illegal settlements on vacant land located in various areas under his department’s jurisdiction, obtained an interdict in the high court (the March order per Koen J), directing the Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality (the Municipality), as the governmental authority responsible for making land available for implementation of the government’s social housing policy, assisted by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), to ‘take reasonable and necessary steps to prevent any persons from invading, occupying, constructing structures and/or placing any material upon the immovable properties’ in question. It also authorised the Municipality and the police to demolish and remove structures that had been built on the identified land.

[3] The portions of land relevant in these proceedings (to which the March order related) were lots 17, 18 and 19 of Erf 960, located in a forested area on the edge of the Cato Crest informal settlement in Durban. Armed with this order, the Municipality embarked on rolling evictions of residents from the identified areas and demolition of their informal dwellings. The Cato Crest informal settlement residents, assisted by the social movement known as Abahlali Basemjondolo, instituted court proceedings against the Municipality and the MEC, challenging the evictions. On 22 August 2013, the Constitutional Court granted a provisional court order which incorporated an undertaking by the Municipality and the MEC that they would stop evicting the residents until the March interim order was finalised.