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SAFTU condemns man who threw baby from roof but demands protection for shack dwellers

The South African Federation of Trade Unions condemns in the strongest terms the man in the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Port Elizabeth who threw his baby girl from his shack roof in protest against the demolition of his house.

SAFTU also congratulates the Nelson Mandela Bay metro police officer who caught the 13-month old girl and saved her life.

The federation understands the frustration of shack dwellers who struggle to survive in appalling conditions and face the constant threat of losing even that precarious dwelling.

But there can be absolutely no justification for taking out one’s anger on an innocent baby and acting in a way that could easily have ended her life. The law must take its course, and the man must be charged and punished.

But there is also an urgent need to deal more humanely wth the plight of the homeless.

On 4 October 2000 the Constitutional Court handed down its landmark judgment in the Grootboom case, which confirmed that housing is a fundamental human right, under Section 26 (3) of the Constitution, which reads: “No one may be evicted from their homes, or have their homes demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.”

The Concourt ruled in favor of Irene Grootboom, a housing rights activist, and held that the government had not met its obligation to provide adequate housing for the residents of Cape Town’s Wallacedene informal settlement. The ruling provided clear legal support for housing-rights campaigns in South Africa.

It ruled that emergency shelter must be provided for those “with no access to land, no roof over their heads, and who are living in intolerable conditions or crisis situations.”

The government responded to this judgment by adopting an emergency housing programme which forms Chapter 12 of the National Housing Code.

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 (PIE Act) governs the eviction process in the event of a land invasion. It is supposed to protect both the occupiers and the landowners, including illegal occupants and defaulting tenants.

Yet 18 years since the Grootboom judgement evictions are still rampant, and dwellers in informal settlements are regularly evicted without any alternative accommodation being provided, as officials find ways to circumvent the overarching test of ‘justice and equity’, introduced by the PIE Act.

SAFTU calls for the strict implementation of the Act and the enforcement of the principles laid down by the Concourt in the Grootboom judgement.