Clinic Spearheading Eviction Work

Stellenbosch University Law Clinic Spearheading Eviction Work

Nettie Welcome, an ESTA occupier and former client of the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, which forms part of the Faculty of Law, approached the Clinic for legal assistance in an eviction-related matter. The Clinic was her last resort: “We sat in the dark and without water for three months. If the Clinic did not help us, we would have been put out on the street. We are extremely grateful for your service. Very grateful!” Similarly, Nicolas Simen Grobbelaar, a PIE occupier and former client of the Clinic, was also desperate for legal assistance in his PIE-related matter: “Once again, I thank you for all your assistance and compassion regarding this matter…It’s seldom to find someone with your empathy combined with a sense of justice… What would I do without you? Thank you for taking the weight off my shoulders.”

The Law Clinic is the organisation that assists the greatest number of clients in eviction matters in the Western Cape. Over the past year (from 1 October 2019 to 30 September 2020), notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic and the Law Clinic being closed to the public from 26 March 2020 to 21 June 2020,  the attorney and candidate legal practitioners in the Law Clinic’s eviction department, opened files for 95 clients with eviction-related problems. These issues range from eviction applications; negotiations on behalf of farm occupier clients, relating to the clients’ potential relocation from the farms they occupy; assistance with settlement negotiations on behalf of clients, before or during the court process; threatening evictions; and issues with the disturbance of the clients’ services on, or access to, the properties on which they reside. The Law Clinic further finalised 121 matters of clients with eviction related problems over the past year. The Law Clinic’s eviction department is currently working on 198 pending files for clients with eviction related matters. From 1 October 2019 to 30 September 2020, the Law Clinic successfully finalised 26 eviction applications, either by reaching mutually acceptable settlement agreements that were made orders of court, or by successfully opposing the eviction applications in court.

The daily legal services of the Law Clinic include giving advice; appearing in court; engaging in meaningful engagement meetings with local and provincial government representatives; negotiating with legal representatives of property owners, on behalf of occupiers, to reach mutually acceptable settlement agreements; and presenting educational workshops or training sessions to rural communities and community leaders.

Over the past year, the Law Clinic has also successfully assisted 36 families from farms in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Simondium and Wellington, respectively, with their relocations from the farms on which they resided. These families have all been relocated to properties that have, or will soon be, registered in the clients’ names, following the Law Clinic’s negotiations on their behalf. In these matters, financial assistance is offered to the farm occupiers by the farm owners, with the aim to enable the occupiers to relocate from the farms, and the Law Clinic would then be requested to assist the occupiers with advice on their rights, as well as with assistance in the negotiations with the farm owners or their attorneys. These negotiations most often result in farm occupiers receiving ownership of homes, which ultimately results in permanent security of tenure.

The Law Clinic therefore not only assists clients with opposing eviction applications, providing legal advice on the PIE and ESTA Act, threatening evictions, and applications to restore their possession of the properties on which they reside, but also with negotiations before or after court applications have been instituted.

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