On 5 September 2018, the Johannesburg High Court ordered that Hloniphokwawe Goge, a resident living in a temporary emergency accommodation facility and shelter in Johannesburg called Ekuthuleni, was allowed to remain in the shelter and continue occupying his room after the Christian organisation that manages the shelter, Metropolitan Evangelical Services (MES), tried to evict him by denying him access to his room.

In 2012, in accordance with an order of the Constitutional Court, Goge and 29 other unlawful occupiers living were accommodated at the shelter after they had been evicted from a commercial building on Saratoga Avenue in Johannesburg’s inner-city. Goge has been living there since. On 18 June 2016, Goge got into an argument with another shelter resident, Busi Nhlapo. During the altercation, Nhlapo threw a pot of boiling water over Goge. Goge left the shelter to tend to his injuries. Three months later, he returned, and re-occupied his room. However, the day after that, the shelter manager unlawfully evicted Goge by denying him access to his room. With nowhere else to go, Goge, with the assistance of SERI, approached the High Court for an order allowing him to reoccupy his room. The Johannesburg High Court ordered that Goge was entitled to reoccupy his room.

This decision was appealed by MES and the City of Johannesburg, who argued that Goge had voluntarily vacated the shelter, and that, if he had not, his eviction was nonetheless justified by the need to protect Nhlapo. MES and the City also argued that the shelter was not Goge's home, despite the fact that he had lived at the shelter for almost five years.

In a judgment of the Full Bench of the Johannesburg High Court, written by Judge Mashile, the court rejected MES and the City's arguments. The court found that any significant interference with a person's place of residence constitutes an eviction, including refusing a person access their home after a period of absence. The court held that section 26(3) of the Constitution and the Prevention of Illegal Evictions, and Unlawful Occupation of Land, Act 19 of 1998 (the PIE Act) also grant protection to people living in homeless shelters. The court also strongly disagreed with MES and the City's arguments that Goge had voluntarily vacated the shelter, saying that these claims were "quite fanciful, palpably implausible and far-fetched". As a result, the court found that the shelter manager's actions amounted to an unlawful eviction (as the eviction was not authorised by a court order) and that Goge was alloed to remain in the shelter.

  • Read the full judgment of the High Court (5 September 2018) here.
  • Read more about the case here.