Pretoria – The urgent court bid by a group of waste pickers who were allegedly thrown off the land in Eldoraigne was yesterday struck from the roll due to a technical point.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, found that the group, assisted by Lawyers for Human Rights, did not serve the application on MKS Protection Services, cited as one of the respondents.
The lawyers, however, said this was because they could not get hold of the security company.
The group of about 55 waste pickers are desperate to return to the land from where they run their trade – waste picking – their only livelihood.
They also wanted an interdict to prevent the land owners and the
security company from intimidating and harassing them. This, after their make-shift shacks were allegedly destroyed last month and their belongings set alight.
The group also in a first of its sort, asked that the property owners paid each of them R3 000 in constitutional damages due to the “trampling” of their constitutional rights.
While constitutional damages is not a new issue, it is the first time that it is being asked against private individuals. It is usually against either the SAPS who destroy their goods or a municipality.
The group said they were chased off the land on which they had been living undisturbed for four years.
They are bitterly upset at the way they have been treated. They said in court papers that on October 12, while it was raining, people came
and destroyed their makeshift homes, even though some people were inside the dwellings.
This destruction, they said, was followed by even more degrading actions whereby their mattresses, blankets and other belongings were flung over the fence or set alight.
The gate to the property was locked and signs erected stating private property and that no waste recycling was allowed on the premises.
The waste pickers said owners of the property, Eugene Clark and Daveyton Shopping Centre, in whose name the property is registered, had promised they could remain on a portion of the land.
The land is earmarked for a shopping centre. But due to the economic climate, building has not resumed over the years.
According to Clark, the time has now come to start developing the shopping centre and they have taken the first steps in this direction by cleaning out the overgrown land.
Trouble started, according to the waste pickers, when the land owners cleaned up the land. Instead of allowing them to remain there, their goods and homes were destroyed.
But Clark, in his opposing papers, denied the community had been living there for several years, before they were “so cruelly disturbed in their peaceful possession of the property”.
He said the property was cleaned last year on the insistence of the City of Tshwane and at that time, it was empty. He said he noticed this year that some people had dumped vast amounts of plastic waste on the property, which was against the by-laws.
But, Clark said, there were no shacks on the property. He said when they cleaned up, they took care not to destroy the recyclables.
He said interference by outsiders who “instigated” the waste pickers not to move their goods, later escalated into violence and resulted in three security vehicles being set alight.
Clark denied that the waste pickers ever settled on the land and said they only used it as a dumping ground.
The Lawyers for Human Rights is, meanwhile, set on returning to court to fight for the waste pickers to return and receive compensation.