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Judge Y S Meer

Capacity: Judge
Further appointments:  Acting Judge President – Land Claims Court (since 2012)
First appointed as a judge: 2003 (Western Cape)
Gender: Female
Ethnicity: Indian
Date of Birth: 28 June 1955

Key judgments:

  • South African Human Rights Commission And Others v City Of Cape Town And Others (8631/2020) [2020] ZAWCHC 84 (25 AUGUST 2020)
  • My Vote Counts NPC v President Of The Republic Of South Africa And Others 2017 (6) SA 501 (WCC)
  • Phillips v Minister Of Rural Development And Land Reform And Another (LCC76/2010) [2013] ZALCC 13

Candidate Bio:

A high court judge in the Western Cape since 2003, Meer has also been the acting Judge President of the Land Claims Court since 2012. She acted at the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2011 but has yet to test out the green robes in South Africa’s apex court.

Before her appointment as a judge of the Land Claims Court in 1996 Meer worked as an attorney at the Legal Resources Centre where she served as deputy national director and acting national director.

In August 2020 she heard the matter of South African Human Rights Commission and Others v City of Cape Town and Others, which was an application for an urgent interdict to stop the city, its Anti-Land Invasion Unit and any private contractors from demolishing informal homes and evicting inhabitants — except in terms of a court order — during the national state of disaster triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Where an eviction or demolition did occur in terms of a court order, this was to be done in a way that was lawful, and respected and upheld the dignity of the evicted person.

Meer, with Judge Allie concurring, detailed various demolition operations carried out by the ALIU during Alert levels 3 and 4 of the national state of disaster and rejected the City’s argument that evictions were not carried out from unoccupied structures.

Meer held that the applicants had established “a prima facie, if not a clear right” to the interdict in respect of occupied structures. Regarding unoccupied structures, she accepted the applicants’ argument that the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act required that if there was any doubt about whether a structure was occupied for residential purposes, or whether it was complete or fully built, a court order had to be obtained before a person could be evicted from it, or the structure could be demolished.

This interpretation, Meer held, ensured “that the occupier’s constitutional rights to dignity, housing, safety and security of the person and life” were protected.

Meer was extremely critical of the city’s approach to evictions, finding that it had “not provided a substantial response to the charge… that [the] ALIU determines which dwellings are unoccupied and singled out for demolition in an arbitrary, capricious and unfettered manner. The City has failed to point to any policy, rule, or legislation that sheds light on how it determines what is occupied and unoccupied. [Counsel] for the City was not able to point me to any evidence which indicated any policy employed by the ALIU, let alone one that was not arbitrary.”

Meer rejected the City’s argument that it would suffer prejudice due to land incursions if court orders had to be obtained for demolitions of, and evictions from, unoccupied structures: “Land invasions or incursions do not occur because of court orders or judicial oversight. Land invasions are driven by homelessness, poverty and desperation,” she wrote, granting the interdict

Meer turned around her judgment in My Vote Counts NPC v President of the Republic of South Africa on the same day in September 2017. Her ruling was later confirmed by the Constitutional Court a year later.

This matter was an application for a declaration that information about the private funding of political parties was reasonably required for the effective exercise of the right to vote. The application also sought an order declaring sections of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid, for not allowing the continuous and systematic disclosure and recording of private funding information of political parties.

The application was a successor to an earlier one which had sought to compel Parliament to enact legislation to regulate the disclosure of private funding information. The Constitutional Court had held that it was necessary to bring a “frontal challenge” to PAIA, which this application sought to do.

Meer began by considering whether the Constitution required the disclosure of private funding of political parties and rejected the argument by the minister in the presidency that the political rights in section 19 of the Constitution should be read separately from the right of access to information in section 32. She found that the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights was interdependent on citizens’ right and ability to access information.

Meer endorsed the reasoning of the minority judgment in the preceding Constitutional Court case to the effect that that information about political parties’ private funding was required for the exercise of an informed right to vote, which “accord with a weight of jurisprudence regarding the right of access to information and the right to vote”.

Meer then considered whether PAIA provided for a right to access information about the private funding of political parties and found that it was “somewhat problematic” to try to bring political parties within PAIA’s definition of “private bodies”.  The PAIA regime, according to Meer, did not cater for “the continuous disclosure of private funding information flowing from the rights in s 32(1) read with those in s 19(1)” of the Constitution.

Citizens could not be expected “to incur the expense and effort of compiling detailed requests, which may not be met”, as the fees involved “would impose an onerous and unwarranted burden on citizens,” she found.

Meer concluded that PAIA’s limitation of sections 32 and 19 was not reasonable nor justifiable in an open and democratic society, and granted an order declaring that PAIA was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid insofar as it did not allow for the disclosure and recording of private funding information. The declaration of invalidity was suspended for 18 months.

Meer has a BA from the then-University of Durban-Westville (1975), and LLB from the University of Cape Town (1979) and an LLM from University of Warwick in the United Kingdom (1982).

She was the Western Cape Chairperson of the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee from 2006 until 2010 and an extraordinary professor at the University of Stellenbosch from 2017- present.