Braam Duvenhage (71), owner of Modderklip Farm on the Gauteng East Rand, received compensation for the unlawful occupation of his property by more than 40 000 informal settlers. The Constitutional Court ruled Duvenhage was entitled to damages from the state because it had failed to protect him from the land invasion. Legalbrief Africa quoted Deputy Chief Justice Pius Langa as saying, “Land invasions of this scale threatened far more than the private rights of a single owner and have the capacity to be socially inflammatory and the potential to have serious implications for stability and public peace. They should always be discouraged.”
Two years after the ruling it seems government is finally making an attempt to address the land invasion problem. The KZN provincial legislature recently debated the Elimination and Prevention of the Re-emergence of Slums Bill.
BuaNews reported that should the bill be voted into law, the legislation will create a precedent for the whole country because, for the first time, it will outlaw any erection of new slums. “The revolutionary bill, the first of its kind to be piloted in the country, seeks to prevent further proliferation and emergence of new slums in the province and to adopt measures that would help government to achieve its objective of eradicating informal settlements by 2014,” said the local government, housing and traditional affairs spokesperson Lennox Mabaso.
He said the legislation, pioneered by the MEC for local government, housing and traditional affairs Mike Mabuyakhulu is a result of government’s realisation that thousands of slums are still being built. BuaNews states the proposed law would also deal with the problem of slumlords. “These unscrupulous people practise what is called ‘shack farming’ where they own a number of informal settlements and charge exorbitiant rents from people desperate for accommodation. When plans to provide proper and adequate housing are introduced by the government, they lead campaigns against moving people to decent areas with proper housing as they see this as a threat to their illegal business practices,” said Mabaso.
If passed, the bill would give municipalities the power to act decisively against land invaders and also lay down procedures to be followed if a person needs accommodation, such as approaching municipalities and looking at affordable rental housing options.
All municipalities in the province would be required to conduct an audit of all the existing slums within six months of the bill becoming law in order to avoid the further proliferation of squatter camps in the province. Organised agriculture has welcomed the proposed law. Agri SA acted as a friend of the court in the Modderklip case, submitting court documents that highlighted the countrywide problem. – Cornelia du Plooy