30 Apr 1998

30 April 1998

PREVENTION OF ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF LAND BILL

Most South Africans do not own the land on which they live. For too
many years, families have been evicted unfairly, with no regard for their
rights as individuals. This Bill, in conjunction with the Extension of
Security of Tenure Act, will address the rights of the landless to fair
treatment.

KEY POINTS OF THE BILL


  • The purpose of this legislation is to create a fair and transparent
    procedure for disputes regarding the occupation of land.
  • This legislation recognises that owners of land have the right to prevent
    people from occupying their land without their permission.
  • It will create a balance between just and equitable action which will
    protect the rights of both landowner and occupant.
  • It will protect the poor and landless from cruel and arbitrary action
    by landowners, while providing landowners with a fair and legal procedure
    for preventing illegal occupation of their land or property.

REPEAL OF UNJUST APARTHEID SQUATTING LAWS

This Bill repeals the prevention of Illegal Squatting Act of 1951 and
sections of other Acts which dealt with land occupation.

ACCESS TO COURTS

The most significant aspect of this Bill is that no evictions can take
place without a court order. This supports the provision of section 26(3)
of the constitution that sates that " no one may be evicted from their
home or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after
considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary
evictions." The constitution also says that no one may be deprived
of property except in terms of the law.

RIGHTS OF OCCUPIERS OF LAND

If the people occupying the land have been on the land or in the property
for more than six months the courts must consider


  • whether there is other land available, either from the municipality
    or other state sources, or another land owner
  • the needs of the elderly, disabled children or women heading households

If the court decides that all these requirements have been met it must
grant an eviction order that gives a reasonable date for the occupier to
vacate the land.

The court can also make an order for the demolition or removal of any
building on the property.

It can also grant the request from the sheriff to authorise someone
to assist the sherif to carry out an order of eviction.

RIGHT TO APPEAR IN COURT

In all court applications for evictions the occupiers of the land have
the right to appear before the court and defend the case. If necessary
they have the right to apply for legal aid.

URGENT EVICTIONS

The legislation requires that the occupier of the land be given at least
14 days notice that the owner has instituted eviction proceedings. But
in exceptional circumstances this can be waived, if there is the likelihood
of injury or damage to property if the occupier is not evicted immediately,
or there is the probability of hardship to the owner or anyone else which
will exceed the hardship to the occupier of the land, if the occupier is
not evicted immediately.

UNLAWFUL EVICTIONS WILL BE A CRIMINAL OFFENCE

If a landowner evicts a person without an eviction order, the landowner
will be guilty of an offence and can be prosecuted. On conviction, the
offender can receive a jail sentence of up to two years and or a fine.
Any person who has been illegally evicted will be able to lay a charge
against the landowner.

NO MORE SQUATTER BARONS

Included in this Bill is a provision which makes it illegal for anyone
to demand or receive payment for arranging or allowing someone to occupy
land without the permission of the owner. This will allow the law to act
against unscrupulous "squatter barons" who take money from landless
people, desperate for a place to live. People convicted of this offence
will be liable for a fine and or a prison sentence of up to two years.

KEY POLITICAL MESSAGES


  • The ANC is committed to protecting the rights of all. This Bill protects
    the rights of the landless and the rights of landowners.
  • The most vulnerable of our citizens will be protected from vindictive
    and arbitrary eviction. By making illegal evictions a criminal offence
    the ANC again shows its commitment to improving the lives of the disadvantaged
    of South Africa.
  • In this legislation the ANC reaffirms its commitment to the most needy
    of South African citizens, without unfairly undermining the interests of
    property owners.
  • The ANC once again proves that it is committed to reconciling the needs
    of interest groups who under the old regime were regarded as irreconcilable.
  • South Africa has a sad history of disregard for the rights of the landless.
    This legislation will create the legal framework for the protection of
    these rights as laid down by our constitution.

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