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Cissie Gool House: Case postponed

- Basetsana Koitsioe

Following Friday's hearing, the matter concerning the mass eviction of over 900 people from Cissie Gool House has been postponed to 22 April 2021

A statement by City of Cape Town Councillor Malusi Booi released on Friday, 26 February 2021, contains a number of factual errors regarding the events which led to the postponement of the City’s application for a court-ordered survey of the occupiers of the former Woodstock Hospital, now also known as Cissie Gool House.

Firstly, Councillor Booi omits to mention that the case was postponed after the City’s legal team adopted the wrong court procedures in placing the case on the unopposed motion roll of the Western Cape High Court.

The City knew full well from Wednesday, 24 February 2021, that CALS was representing the occupiers and that the City’s application would be opposed. CALS also wrote to the City’s attorneys that same day advising them that the procedure adopted by the City was incorrect and inviting them to remove the case from the unopposed motion roll in order for the occupiers to file answering papers and defend themselves in court.

For unknown reasons, the City nonetheless instructed its legal team to proceed on Friday, 26 February, on the unopposed motion roll in the face of the occupiers having formally filed a notice of opposition and notified the City that they would be filing answering papers.

Unsurprisingly, when the case came before the busy unopposed motion roll being heard by Acting Judge De Villiers on Friday, 26 February, the judge, after hearing submissions from our counsel, refused to grant the orders sought by the City, pointing out that the matter was opposed and obviously could not be heard on the unopposed motion roll at the expense of other litigants patiently waiting for their cases to be heard that day.

After Acting Judge De Villiers refused to grant the City’s draft orders on the unopposed motion roll, the City’s legal team proposed postponing the case to 22 April 2021 and suggested a timetable for filing further papers. CALS agreed to the City’s postponement proposal which has now been made an order of court.

Secondly, Councillor Booi incorrectly states that CALS missed a 19 February 2021 court-ordered deadline to file intention to oppose the City’s application for a court ordered survey. There is no court ordered deadline which required the occupiers to oppose the City’s application for a survey by 19 February 2021 and there was no such deadline in the City’s court papers. The City’s court papers in this regard were also non-compliant with the Court rules, which require dates to be set out for when the occupiers would have had to file notices to oppose their application and submit answering papers.

Court rules and procedures exist for a reason. One of these important reasons is to inform and allow respondents a fair and reasonable opportunity to defend themselves by obtaining legal representation and advice and filing answering papers if necessary.

Unlike the City which has large teams of expensive lawyers at its disposal, people living in poverty struggle in obtaining access to justice and legal resources in order to properly defend themselves in eviction cases.

Government litigants such as the City are therefore required to scrupulously observe court procedures in eviction cases and have due regard to the constitutional rights of persons affected by their litigation, such as the right of access to court and a fair public hearing. It is unfortunate that the City’s approach thus far in this litigation, is inconsistent with this principle.

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