A critical analysis of the approach of the courts in the application of eviction remedies in the pre-constitutional and constitutional context

Cloete, Clireesh Terry (2016-12)

Thesis (LLD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : In the pre-constitutional era courts had a very specific approach to eviction remedies. This approach was the result of legal doctrine that regulated the concept of ownership, eviction remedies and standard practices of presiding officers as entrenched in rules of interpretation and procedural rules. The advent of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the “Constitution”) transformed the eviction landscape by way of section 26(3) of the Constitution and the subsequent promulgation of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 (“PIE”). After the first Constitutional Court judgment Port Elizabeth Municipality v Various Occupiers (2005 (1) SA 217 (CC) it became apparent that the PIE not only replaced the pre-constitutional eviction remedies but in fact also required that the deep-level assumptions of a landowner’s right to evict and the standard practices associated with the courts’ role in eviction cases were also revolutionised. The pivotal consideration of this study, in light of these developments of eviction law brought about by the constitutional dawn, is whether the courts are indeed approaching and applying PIE in line with their mandate. This is critical as a superficial shift will only frustrate the transformative thrust of the Constitution in the context of eviction. The study of the courts’ approach to eviction remedies in the pre-constitutional and constitutional context has shown that section 26(3) and PIE have indeed transformed the eviction landscape on a theoretical basis. In this regard, the courts’ approach to eviction remedies has changed from conservative, formalistic and passive in the pre-constitutional era to context-sensitive, flexible and proactive. However, some courts, especially the lower courts, are still failing to apply PIE as mandated. This is due to the continued pre-constitutional deep-level assumptions of the strength of the landowner’s right to evict, combined with procedural practices that form part of their pre-constitutional legal culture. Interestingly, the specific focus on landowners in this study indicated that this failure on the part of the court is surprisingly problematic for landowners.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Voor die inwerkingtreding van die Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid Afrika, 1996 (die “Grondwet”) het die howe uitsettingsremedies op ʼn baie spesifieke wyse benader. Dié benadering was die resultaat van die regsdogma wat die eiendomsbegrip gereguleer het, die wese van bestaande uitsettingsremedies, sowel as die reëls van interpretasie en prosedure rakende die voorsittende beampte se rol in hofverrigtinge. Die inwerkingtreding van die Grondwet en die Wet of die Voorkoming van Onwettige Uitsetting en Onregmatige Okkupasie van Grond Wet 19 van 1998 (“Uitsettingswet”) is daarop gemik om die wyse waarop uitsettings gereguleer en benader word, te transformeer. Die hof in Port Elizabeth Municipality v Various Occupiers (2005 (1) SA 217 (CC) het dit duidelik gemaak dat die Uitsettingswet nie net die voor-grondwetlike uitsettingsremedies vervang het nie, maar ook ʼn ommekeer vereis. Laasgenoemde word vereis ten aansien van onderliggende aannames oor ʼn eienaar se reg op uitsetting, asook standaardpraktyke wat betref die hof se rol in uitsettingsake. Dié uitspraak rakende die hof se nuwe rol is kardinaal omdat slegs ʼn oppervlakkige verandering die transformasie-oogmerke van die Grondwet sal frustreer. Die studie van die wyse waarop howe uitsettingsremedies in die grondwetlike en voor-grondwetlike era benader, dui aan dat artikel 26(3) van die Grondwet en die Uitsettingswet op ʼn teoretiese vlak die uitsettingslandskap verander het. In hierdie verband het die studie aangetoon dat die hof se benadering verander het vanaf ʼn konservatiewe, meganiese en onbetrokke benadering voor die inwerkingtrede van die Grondwet tot ʼn konteks-sensitiewe, soepele en betrokke benadering. Ten spyte hiervan dui onlangse regspraak steeds daarop dat die vereiste transformasie nie altyd bespeur word wanneer howe uitsettingsake beslis nie. Die studie wys uit dat sommige howe, veral laer howe, steeds nie daarin slaag om die Uitsettingswet toe te pas soos deur die Grondwet vereis nie. Hierdie versuim kan toegeskryf word aan die handhawing van voor-grondwetlike regskultuur wat betref onderliggende aannames oor die inherente krag van eiendomsreg en die navolg van voor-grondwetlike prosedurele praktyke. Die navorsing dui verder aan dat in gevalle waar howe sodanig misluk, hul dienooreenkomstig nalaat om grondeienaars se eiendomsreg na behore te beskerm.

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