Almost two years ago, the High Court ordered Ekurhuleni Municipality to build houses for 133 informal settlement residents whose subsidised RDP units had been stolen from them. The municipality has refused to meet the court’s deadline. Now, the residents want constitutional damages.
The municipality had admitted to the court that residents of the Winnie Mandela informal settlement had been deprived of RDP houses by “corruption fraud and/or bribery”. Instead of being given the houses built with their subsidies, the houses became occupied by other, unknown, people who were not entitled to the subsidies used to build them.
Instead of providing the houses required, the municipality has persisted in its “delaying tactics”. The latest such tactic has been to request the court to extend, by one year, the period within which the municipality must provide the residents with plots of land and houses to which the residents have now been entitled for up to 20 years. The municipality seeks, in effect, to extend the period during which it will remain in breach of its obligations to the residents.
On behalf of the residents, SERI now argues that the High Court has no power to vary orders to correct breaches of constitutional rights after those orders have come into effect. SERI also seeks constitutional damages of R5000 per resident for every month from 30 June 2019 that the court order to provide the residents with houses remains unfulfilled.
Nomzamo Zondo, who represents the residents, said “the municipality’s conduct reveals that it has never really accepted its obligations and to correct the wrong it has done to the residents. The residents have been deprived, by the municipality’s own unlawful conduct, of land and houses for far too long. The municipality has a constitutional obligation to remedy this situation, and to compensate my clients until it does”.