A group of homeless people, living in a public park in the Pretoria city centre, have reached an agreement with the Tshwane municipal authorities to stop any further illegal raids and confiscation of their meagre belongings.
The group, with the help of Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), yesterday approached the High Court in Pretoria for an urgent interdict, after the city’s waste management department twice clamped down on them over the past two months, as part of a “clean-up” operation and confiscated their personal property.
The homeless people mostly make a meagre living from recycling activities, and say Prince’s Park on the corner of Prince’s Park Road and Nana Sita Street, is the only place they can call home.
They lost valuable items, including identity documents and cards, cellphones, clothing, and other personal belongings, when waste management services descended on them without warning, and simply threw their belongings into garbage trucks.
They complained they were not given an opportunity to salvage their valuables, and were told if they wanted to retrieve them, they must go to the dumping site in Rosslyn north of Pretoria.
One of the residents, John Mazibuko, said in an affidavit the raids were conducted without the city obtaining confiscation or eviction orders, and they were threatened with violence and arrest should they return to the park.
He said the city’s conduct demonstrated its disregard for the rights of the homeless, and their modus operandi was “manifestly anti-poor”.
LHR proceeded with legal action after letters to the city manager and mayor fell on deaf ears.
The homeless group not only wanted the court to interdict the city’s clean-up operations, but also asked the court to order the city to pay them R500 000 in constitutional damages.
The matter was settled after the city manager filed an affidavit in which he admitted city officials had removed the group’s property and offered payment for “emergency relief in distress”.