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n Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg - Uitsettings onder die Suid-Afrikaanse grondwet : die verhouding tussen artikel 25(1), artikel 26(3) en die uitsettingswet (slot)
Evictions under the South African Constitution: the relationship between section 25(1) and 26(3) of the constitution and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful occupation of Land Act
This article examines the protection afforded by section 25(1) and section 26(3) of the constitution in the context of evictions under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE). After initial confusion about the scope and applicability of the latter act, Ndlovu v Ngcobo, Bekker v Jika 2003 1 SA 113 (SCA) confirmed that PIE is applicable not only to classical instances of squatting, but to all possible instances of unlawful occupation. This raised questions as to the place of PIE within the constitutional framework for land reform and provision of housing. This article sets out to analyse the act and case law ensuing from its application, to determine how the purpose of the act is understood. It is concluded that case law attributes at least ten primary purposes to the act. These include: (i) the purpose of regulation of control; (ii) the determination of what is fair and equitable in the context of eviction; (iii) the purpose of providing defendants a better opportunity before a court of law; (iv) the provision of procedural and substantive protection; (v) the embodiment, advancement and protection of human rights; (vi) the repeal and inversion of the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act of 1951; (vii) the prevention of evictions; (viii) the balancing of competing interests; (xi) the provision of discretionary judicial powers; and (x) the development of common law.
In view of the above, the balancing of interests protected by section 25(1) on the one hand and section 26(3) on the other, has gained renewed significance in the context of evictions, especially in recent constitutional case law. The second part of this analysis is aimed at contextualizing the relation between the act and the two mentioned constitutional provisions, by indicating the turn in approach that occurred at more or less the same time than the handing down of the supreme court of appeal's decisions in Ndlovu, as well as Brisley v Drotsky 2002 4 SA 1 (SCA). It is indicated how the approach to the relation between the constitutional provisions and PIE shifted from a rather static private law oriented approach to a transformative one. The implication is that the "relevant circumstances" requirement which forms part of the onus of proof under PIE, and which is incorporated in section 26 of the constitution, cannot be exhaustively defined. The final part of the article then focuses on post 2002 case law in order to identify judicial tendencies in dealing with the requirement that evictions must be just and fair, upon a consideration of relevant circumstances. In this respect, focus is placed on (i) the various responsibilities placed on state organs in dealing with evictions; (ii) crisis housing and vulnerability of occupiers; (iii) the phenomena of land-grabbing and queue-jumping; (iv) social responsibility of landowners; (v) commercial property and (vi) the continued protection of interests of all parties involved. The conclusion reached deals with the altered judicial skills required in not only applying the law, but in managing continually stressed social processes actively on the basis of the constitutional values.
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