UN envoy criticises SA’s forced evictions

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Pretoria, South Africa

24 April 2007 06:56

The United Nations’s chief housing watchdog called on Tuesday for a halt to forced evictions in South Africa, saying people were being left homeless in breach of the country’s Constitution.

“I am calling for a moratorium on evictions across the country until policy is brought in line with constitutional provisions,” Miloon Kothari, the special rapporteur on adequate housing, told reporters.

Despite the fact that the right to adequate housing is enshrined in the Constitution, increasing numbers of people are being removed from dilapidated buildings by the security forces.

“One disturbing phenomenon is forced evictions. People continue to be evicted from their homes, whether in the inner cities, rural areas or on farms in spite of strong legislative protection,” Kothari said at a press conference.

Kothari also indicated that he believe that the government had got its priorities wrong by spending huge sums on staging the 2010 World Cup when it was struggling to provide adequate housing.

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said earlier this year there was a danger that plans to build hundreds of thousands of new low-cost homes could fall victim to shifting budget demands in the run-up to the tournament.

“It is very odd that countries with high levels of poverty allocate huge sums to sporting events,” said Kothari.

After a two-week visit of South Africa’s cities and rural areas, Kothari said he was shocked by some of the living conditions in Johannesburg’s inner city.

In some cases inhabitants of derelict buildings had to walk down 14 flights of steps to a tap on the street just to get water.

“I have been to many countries where living conditions are very, very poor. What did surprise me is some of the grossly inadequate living conditions in the inner city where there is no regular sanitation.”

Although South Africa’s government has built over 2,4-million houses since the end of apartheid in 1994, many of these were not up to scratch and had not been built with the residents in mind.

Kothari said he had seen houses that were “hastily constructed, poorly planned and designed in the absence of any consultation between local authorities and residents”.

In hundreds of informal settlements spanning the country he was disturbed at the numbers of people living “without basic human dignity”, and said people were being segregated away from urban centres, services and jobs. — Sapa-AFP

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