New Bill Targets Squatters: South Africa Aims to Curb Unlawful Land Occupation

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South Africa’s National Assembly is currently examining the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Amendment Bill, a private member’s bill introduced on 24 March by Democratic Alliance MP Emma Powell. The bill, which seeks to amend the original Act, aims to address the widespread issue of unlawful land occupation in South African cities.

  1. South Africa’s National Assembly is examining the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Amendment Bill, which seeks to address unlawful land occupation and its negative impacts on urban areas.
  2. The proposed amendments aim to limit the application of the original Act in certain cases, preventing bad-faith occupiers from using it as a defense or delay tactic at property owners’ expense.
  3. The Amendment Bill introduces three main changes, including stricter penalties for unlawful occupation, guidelines for granting eviction orders, and provisions for alternative accommodations when reasonable.

Unlawful occupation has been identified as a leading cause of urban dysfunctionality in South Africa, causing problems such as obstruction of sewage infrastructure, safety hazards from illegal connections, and violations of planning and environmental legislation. Moreover, the scarcity of amenities like clinics and schools near unlawfully occupied land parcels puts additional pressure on municipalities, as stated by the bill’s authors.

The current Act lays out a strict set of requirements for landowners to follow in order to legally evict someone, regardless of the unlawful occupant’s intent or circumstances. The proposed amendments intend to limit the application of the original Act in certain cases, preventing unlawful occupiers who have entered a property in bad faith from using the principal Act as a defense or delay tactic at the property owner’s expense.

The Amendment Bill proposes three main changes to the Act:

  1. Clause 1

This clause amends the Act to stipulate that no individual may incite, arrange, or organize for another person to occupy land without the consent of the owner or person in charge. It also increases the imprisonment term for contravention of unlawful occupation from two years to five years.

  1. Clause 2

Clause 2 outlines that a court must take into consideration whether it is just and equitable to grant an eviction order. Additionally, the clause states that a court may issue an order against a joined municipality, landowner, or organ of state to provide alternative accommodation or land when reasonable.

  1. Clause 3

This clause highlights that in determining whether it is just and equitable to grant an eviction order, the court must consider the intentions of the unlawful occupier when they occupied the land. Consequently, the court must hear evidence to determine whether a person genuinely requires alternative accommodation and should not be evicted or whether they acted in bad faith. The clause also includes provisions stating that when an organ of the state initiates eviction proceedings, a court may order the organ to provide alternative accommodation or land when reasonable and establish a duration for its availability.

The proposed amendments to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act are aimed at addressing the ongoing issue of unlawful land occupation in South Africa. By establishing clearer guidelines and increasing penalties, the Amendment Bill seeks to reduce the negative impact of unlawful occupation on municipalities and property owners while ensuring just and equitable treatment of those in genuine need of alternative accommodation.

three main changes introduced by the Amendment Bill:

ClauseDescriptionKey Points
Clause 1Prohibits inciting, arranging, or organizing unlawful land occupation; increases imprisonment term.– No consent from owner, no occupation
– Imprisonment term increased from 2 to 5 years
Clause 2Court must consider if granting eviction order is just and equitable; provision for alternative accommodation or land by municipality, landowner, or state.– Just and equitable eviction orders
– Alternative accommodation or land when reasonable
Clause 3Court to consider unlawful occupier’s intentions; provisions for state-provided alternative accommodation or land.– Intentions of occupier considered in eviction orders
– State may provide alternative accommodation or land and establish duration of availability
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