Pretoria – The 60 waste pickers who live next to SuperSport Park in Centurion – informally known as Mushroomville – have failed in their first step to ask the court for a lifeline to remain on the land.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ordered their eviction in June, but the group is still on the land as the City of Tshwane prepares new land for them in Sutherland Ridge.
But the group, with the aid of Lawyers for Human Rights, want to appeal their eviction order.
Judge Hans Fabricius, who ordered their eviction, however, earlier turned down their application for leave to appeal.
The group turned to the Supreme Court of Appeal, where they launched a petition to obtain leave to appeal. As their petition is 15 days late, the first step is to ask the appeal court for condonation of their late filing of the petition.
The owner of the Centurion property, Turnover Trading, and the City are adamant to evict the group as per the court order, but the waste pickers turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, last week in a desperate bid to ask that the execution of the order be halted until the appeal court had dealt with the issue.
The owners of the land on which they are now living and operating their waste picking business from, earlier said they planned to build a multimillion hotel and conference centre there. They thus want the waste pickers off the land.
But the waste pickers said in their latest papers before court that the owners had not yet received the go-ahead from the City to build the hotel and all indications were that this would take some time.
They argued that it wouldn’t cause any harm if they remained on the land until the appeal court had dealt with their application.
The high court, however, turned down their application.
Lawyers for Human Rights attorney, Louise du Plessis, said they had now approached the Supreme Court to urgently deal with their petition.
She said if that court granted them condonation for their late application, the eviction order would be put on ice pending the final word from that court.
If the appeal court turned them down at the first hurdle, they would turn to the Constitutional Court, she said.
One of the contentious issues is that while the City is preparing alternative accommodation for the group on vacant land in Sutherland Ridge, the City specifically maintained that they may not operate their waste picking activities from there, nor may they take their waste removal carts along.
The waste pickers have maintained from the start of this long legal battle, that they are extremely poor and their only income is from waste picking.
They said that without them being able to continue with their waste picking trade, they will be destitute.
The court ordered in June that the City of Tshwane had to provide emergency housing to these waste pickers and that they had to be moved within 30 days.
According to the earlier order, they are entitled to live on this property for six months, during which time the City, with the help of the Department of Home Affairs, must ascertain their status in the country. Those who are legally here, will be evaluated to see whether they qualify for RDP housing.
The respondents argued that the group could in any event not stay where they were in Centurion, as their shacks were located under the flood-line and they faced danger as the rainy season approached.