Johannesburg (South Africa): Victory for Wynberg residents

Direct action at the Johannesburg High Court forces judge to issue a decision: No case for an eviction order. But the judge bowed to the developers by allowing the proceedings to move to oral testimony from witnesses.

Dozens of children from Wynberg took a day off from school today [Friday April 29, 2005] so that they could join their parents at the Johannesburg High Court. Having rejected the developers’ patronizing attempt to buy them off with R500,000 ($85/person), the residents arrived at court early this morning expecting the judge to announce whether or not he had decided to evict the Wynberg residents from their homes. They were let down when the judge phoned their attorney and told him that there would be no decision today.

The residents refused to accept another postponement. Led by the children, they filed into the empty courtroom and sat patiently waiting for the judge to appear. More than once, the judge’s assistant opened the door to the courtroom and glanced around before disappearing again. After less than half an hour, the sit-in produced results. The judge’s assistant informed the residents’ attorney that the judge had changed his mind and agreed to announce his decision later in the day.

At 12:00, the judge called the lawyers for both sides into his chambers and announced a victory for the residents. The judge declared that he could not issue an eviction order based on the arguments heard in court over the last two weeks. At first, it seemed that the residents had won a major victory and that the case would be dismissed. Unfortunately, the judge did not stop there. He went out of his way to accommodate the developers and to give them yet another opportunity to convince him of their case. He has decided to close the initial arguments but to continue the proceedings next week with oral testimony from witnesses.

Despite the fact that the fight is still far from over, today’s decision constitutes an important victory for the residents of Alexandra in their struggle against the construction of a major corporate shopping center that threatens to displace thousands of residents and impose a stranglehold on countless small scale enterprises in Alexandra.


[See also Indymedia South Africa.]