The history, development and future of public nuisance in light of the Constitution

Samuels, Alton Ulrich (2010-12)

Thesis (LLM (Public Law))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Bibliography

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT:The objective of this thesis is to establish whether the notion of public nuisance has a legitimate purpose in post-apartheid South African. Public nuisance originated in English law in the 12th century as a tort-based crime called tort against land and was used to protect the Crown against infringements. This special remedy of the Crown was used in cases of unlawful obstruction of public highways and rivers, damage or injury causing an inconvenience to a class or all of her majesty‟s subjects and a selection of other crimes. The notion of public nuisance was adopted in South African law during the late 19th century. Between its inception and 1943, the notion of public nuisance was applied in line with its original aims, namely to protect and preserve the health, safety and morals of the public at large. Public nuisance regulated unreasonable interferences such as smoke, noise, violence, litter and blockage of roads which originated in a public space or land, as opposed to a private space or land. However, the public nuisance remedy was indirectly used, in a number of cases during the 1990s, by private individuals to apply for an interdict to evict occupiers of informal settlements. In so doing, these private individuals bypassed legislation regulating evictions and in the process disrupted or frustrated new housing developments, especially those provided for in land reform programmes. In fact, it was established that this indirect application of public nuisance is unconstitutional in terms of section 25(1) of the Constitution. Most of the public disturbances originally associated with the public nuisance doctrine are currently provided for in legislation. Since the remedy is now mainly provided for in legislation, the question is whether the doctrine of public nuisance as a Common Law remedy is still relevant in modern South African law. It was concluded, especially after an analysis of two cases during 2009 and 2010, that the notion of public nuisance only has a future in South African law if it is applied iv in the absence of statutory nuisance or any other legislation covering public nuisance offences and where it is not used as an alternative mechanism to evict occupiers.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van die tesis is om vas te stel of publieke oorlas as gemeenregtelike remedie „n geldige doel in post-apartheid Suid-Afrika het. Die remedie bekend as publieke oorlas het ontstaan in 12de eeuse Engelse reg. Hierdie remedie het ontwikkel as „n delikteregtelike en kriminele remedie, met die doel om land wat aan die Kroon behoort te beskerm. Publieke oorlas het, onder andere, toepassing gevind waar daar onwettige obstruksie van publieke hoofweë en riviere was sowel as skade of nadeel wat vir die breë publiek ongerief sou veroorsaak. Ander misdade was ook gekenmerk as „n publieke oorlas. Publieke oorlas is teen die laat 19de eeu in die Suid-Afrikaanse regoorgeneem . Tussen die oorname van die remedie in die Suid-Afrikaanse reg en 1943 is die remedie van publieke oorlas toegepas in lyn met sy oorspronlike doelwitte, naamlik om optrede wat die gesondheid, veiligheid en moraliteit van die breë publiek in gedrang kon bring, te verhoed. Volgens sy oorspronklike doel reguleer publieke oorlas onredelike inmenging soos rook, geraas, geweld en obstruksie van paaie wat op publieke grond of „n publieke spasie ontstaan het. Die remedie van publieke oorlas is, in ‟n reeks sake gedurende die 1990‟s, deur privaat individue indirek gebruik om okkupeerders van informele nedersettings uit te sit. Sodoende het privaat individue die wetgewing wat spesiaal ontwerp is om uitsettings te reguleer vermy en in die proses nuwe behuisingsontwikkelinge ontwrig en gefrustreer, veral in gevalle waarvoor in grondhervormingsprogramme voorsiening gemaak word. Hierdie indirekte toepasing van publieke oorlas is ongrondwetlik omdat dit nie met artikel 25(1) van die Grondwet versoenbaar is nie. Die meerderheid van steurnisse wat gewoonlik met publieke oorlas geassosieer word, word tans deur wetgewing gereguleer. Aangesien die remedie nou hoofsaaklik in wetgewing vervat is, ontstaan die vraag of die leerstuk van publieke oorlas as „n gemeenregtelike remedie nog van enige nut is in die moderne Suid-Afrikaanse reg. vi Die slotsom, veral na die analise van twee sake in 2009 en 2010, was dat die publieke oorlas remedie slegs „n toekoms in Suid-Afrikaanse reg het, indien dit toegepas word in die afwesigheid van statutêre oorlas of enige ander wetgewing wat publieke oorlas oortredinge dek en waar dit nie as „n alternatiewe meganisme gebruik word om okkupeerders uit te sit nie.

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