Social justice groups call for halt on evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic

OPEN LETTER

In the face of the unprecedented global threat caused by Covid-19, 27 social justice movements and organisations working with and in support of poor, working-class and vulnerable people have addressed a letter to the Presidency of South Africa and the Covid-19 National Command Council, calling for an end to the issuing and execution of all eviction orders for the entirety of the pandemic.

This moratorium on evictions and any other form of displacement or removal of people and their property from where they are living is essential to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa and to protect vulnerable groups.

Many studies have shown a proven link between secure housing and public health and, conversely, between precarious living situations, such as homelessness and temporary accommodation, and the spread of infectious diseases, such as Covid-19.

In the interests of saving lives, many cities and countries around the globe have already followed this path, from New York to San Francisco to Barcelona.

In the midst of this global pandemic and on the eve of Human Rights Day, evictions are manifestly unjust. In this context, we should not lose sight of our humanity and our commitment to human rights. The law should not prioritise property rights over the basic human rights to adequate sanitation, health and housing.

We, therefore, urge the president, minister of justice and constitutional development, chief justice, judges president, chief magistrates and all law enforcement bodies to respond to our call to consider the unique circumstances posed by Covid-19 and place a moratorium on all eviction proceedings.

Such a moratorium is not only in the interests of these vulnerable groups, but is also essential to the public health of all South Africans. Flattening the curve is the only way we are going to be able to save lives during this pandemic.

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