Press Release: 2 May 2023
NU and SERI call for the abandonment of the PIE amendment proposals by the DA
Democratic Alliance MP, Ms Emma Powell, submitted the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Amendment Bill 2023 to Parliament. The Bill has been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements by the Speaker of the National Assembly, in line with Rule 283(1) read together with Rule 285. The Programming Committee of Parliament will now place this item onto the Order Paper for introduction in the National Assembly. (link)
Last week South Africa marked the 29th anniversary of Freedom Day to commemorate the first election in which South Africans of all races could vote. After nearly three decades of progressive rights realisation, we are seeing the tide turn towards regression, towards walking back many hard-won gains. This moment calls for a firm stance and defence of the Constitutional promise. It calls for the protection of the rights of those who continue to find themselves landless and homeless.
Section 26(3) of the Constitution states that evictions or demolitions can only take place with an order of court. The legislation enacted to give effect to this right, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 (the PIE Act), sets out the procedure which must be followed in an eviction application as well as the substantive grounds to be considered before an eviction order is made. It sets out the duty of the court to consider all relevant circumstances in a household before an eviction order is granted. The PIE Act is an Act of last resort to protect the rights of the landless and homeless. It balances the rights of both occupiers and property owners.
The proposed amendments to the PIE Act walk back protections for the vulnerable and should be resisted.
On Tuesday, 25 April, Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) made separate submissions on the Democratic Alliance’s Amendment Bill to the PIE Act, flagging several concerns with the proposed changes to the Act in its current form.
“At best, the draft Bill takes a cynical view of the poor, treating their motives for occupation and their socio-economic circumstances with suspicion. “ Nomzamo Zondo, executive director at SERI
Living within an unprecedented housing crisis, such a Bill only suggests punitive measures and does not address the systemic drivers of land occupations. Both NU and SERI remain deeply concerned that the Bill and its genesis reflect an approach to informality that echoes the apartheid government’s vilification and subsequent displacement and forced removal of Black and Coloured people from urban centres.
“Such an approach will invariably affect the poor and working-class people who, because of continuing dispossession, are homeless and landless” says Mpho Raboeane, attorney at Ndifuna Ukwazi
SERI contends the draft Bill is devoid of any context that provides an understanding of historic dispossession and eviction.
Said Zondo, “It problematises occupation and seeks to amend the PIE Act, which is an Act of last resort, and the only legislation aimed at preventing arbitrary eviction and homelessness, instead of addressing the lack of urban land reform, housing provision and unaffordability that are contributing factors to occupation.”
There are three changes proposed by the DA, which raise human rights concerns and which fail to acknowledge the context of South Africa in bringing substantive justice to people historically dispossessed of land.
- Nullifying the main principle of the PIE Act which was to decriminalise unlawful occupation, the proposed amendment would essentially reverse the PIE Act into its predecessor the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act (PISA).
- The second change proposed is to amend Section 6, which legislates what information the court must take into regard when considering granting an eviction.
- The DA has proposed that the court take into account the “intention” of the person occupying land. This is not contextualised or framed in any way, and provides several legal loopholes. It is furthermore discriminatory and redundant as the law already foregrounds the personal circumstances of occupiers in adjudicating eviction cases.
- Proposes to remove the obligation of providing alternative accommodation in an eviction where people may be rendered homeless, away from the municipality of jurisdiction.
- This change would mean there is no official state body responsible for people who are rendered homeless as the result of an eviction, and who will be effectively lost in the system.
- Without the progressive realisation of housing rights, such changes will only undo the many hard-won gains and compound landlessness and homelessness.
Both organisations agree that the Bill has no worthy contributions to progressively realising justice and should be abandoned in its entirety.
- DA Proposed Amendment: https://static.pmg.org.za/B6-2023_Prevention_of_Illegal_Eviction.pdf
- PIE Act: https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/201409/a19-98.pdf
- Call for comment from PMG: https://pmg.org.za/call-for-comment/1271/
- SERI Submission: https://www.seri-sa.org/images/2023_Draft_Submission_on_the_PIE_Amendment_Bill.pdf
- NU Submission: https://nu.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2023.04.25_NDIFUNA-UKWAZIS-COMMENT-ON-THE-PREVENTION-OF-ILLEGAL-EVICTION-FROM-AND-UNLAWFUL-OCCUPATION-OF-LAND-AMENDMENT-BILL-1.pdf