Current position: Advocate SC
Date appointed: Conferred silk in 2018
While the courts’ development of housing rights in South Africa has been progressive, the hard reality of everyday life means that even the emergency measures judges order in eviction cases sometimes provides scant succour for those affected.
Which probably why Sievers was criticised by community members whose eviction from Klein Akkers Farm in Kraaifontein he upheld in August this year.
Hundreds of farmworkers and their families were affected in the eviction. This had followed the 2012 sale of the farm to a new owner who moved away from fruit production to focusing on sand mining and transport — leaving the majority of the workers on the farm unemployed. The farmer, Gerard Konrad, had subsequently sought their eviction.
In his order Sievers ruled that the City of Cape Town “make available within 24 hours of this order, temporary emergency shelter in the form of land and emergency housing kits at the emergency housing site known as Kampies, Philippi”. This was to be completed within six weeks of the order being handed down.
He also ruled that the city must provide temporary emergency housing kits to those unwilling to move to Kampies at any site where they had received permission to stay.
According to media reports the affected community had complained that Kampies was only a temporary relocation area (TRA) in name, and that it, like other TRA sites around the city would inevitably become their permanent home. Others complained about the long distances the affected school children would have to travel to attend school at exam time — a major disruption to their lives — likewise those who were employed would have to travel long distances to work.
Community leader Tanya Bowers told Times Live: “The judgment doesn’t understand the reality confronting the people of Klein Akker Farm…Children will be forced to change schools with no guarantee of enrolment given the current situation with the Western Cape education department,” she said.
The city was also criticised for not making available land which they owned next to the eviction site.
In Fine and Another v Chaplin, Sievers sentenced the respondent to six months direct imprisonment after being found in contempt of court for not abiding by two previous court orders. The respondent was also ordered to pay the costs of the application on the attorney and client scale.
In 2011, the High Court had ordered that neither party should contact each other. In 2017, a rule nisi was granted against the respondent not to contact the applicants or to publish anything related to the Applicants via the internet, social media or email.
The applicants claimed that the Respondent breached the terms of the aforementioned orders by having authored seven anonymous letters in the first quarter of 2018.
Sievers found that the evidence established that the author of the letters was the respondent and held that the Applicants had to establish a wilful and mala fide disregard of the 2011 and 2017 orders on the part of the Respondent.
Sievers held that the applicants had established the existence of the orders, proper notice to the respondent, and the respondent’s contempt of the orders. The evidentiary burden then shifted to the respondent to establish a reasonable doubt as to whether his conduct could be characterised as wilful and male fide.
“It is clear that by attempting to conceal his identity the respondent confirms that he appreciates that his conduct is unlawful. Unlawfulness and male fides flow naturally from the respondent’s conduct in that he has professed a desire to continue to conduct himself in contempt of the 2011 and 2017 orders,” Sievers found.
Sievers has acted for three terms at the Western Cape Division of the High Court in 2018 and a further three terms in 2019.
The 61-year-old Sievers holds a BA (1981) and an LLB (1984) from the University of Cape Town. A founder member of Advocates for Transformation Sievers joined the Cape Bar in 1990 and took silk in 2018.
October 2019 Interview:
October 2019 Interview Synopsis:
Adv Sievers was heavily criticised by community members who were subject to an eviction order from Lein Akkers Farm in Kraaifontein, and the JSC picked the issue up very quickly in their intervew of Sievers.
In his order Sievers ruled that the City of Cape Town, “make available within 24 hours of this order, temporary emergency shelter in the form of land and emergency housing kits at the emergency housing site known as Kampies, Philippi”.
The advocate gave a history of the matter, which involved the original eviction order, a delay in its implementation, then an appeal of the order and further delays. The matter came before Sievers as an urgent application only around the provision of alternative accommodation. He was at pains to emphasise that he was not in a position to rule on the eviction itself. The community initially said that the alternative, Kampies, was not suitable, and that they wanted to be housed in community centres. The relief asked for was then amended to asking for building materials.
In the matter acting Judge Sievers then ordered that such building materials be provided, and that the applicants be given alternative accommodation in Kampies. The JSC appeared to find this an acceptable explanation.
To the question as to what should the role of the courts be in evictions, he responded that evictions and land grabs are hard for the courts to grapple with. He pointed out a lot of the land is private land, and a land grab shouldn’t result in transfer of ownership of the land. He suggested that our judges are painfully aware of the issues in relation to evictions.