An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
Loosing My House
My name is Eunice Gundwana, a single mother of four children. I’ve worked hard all these years to provide good education to my children. I’m not afraid to say that I will not quit on this dream.
I was retrenched from my last job without any long term financial support. My main objective, since then, was to start my own business and be independent. It has been a very difficult road, full of trials and tribulations. I told myself that I will never give up. I’m a staunch believer in the saying, ‘the greatest failure in life is to stop trying’.
I bought this house about eighteen years ago. This is not only a house to me. This is my home, my source of income, a legacy that I would like to leave for my children. With this house, I want to break the chain of poverty that has been handed within my family from generation to generation.
This house is my source of income in many ways:
1.2. About the house
I had problems in keeping up with my payments due to the ups and downs of the business as well as the demand to keep my children at school.
My problems started around 2002-2003. This was the period when I was served with summons, which I only received two days before that my house was going to be sold on an auction. I was in arrears for an amount of R……. I went to the bank immediately and negotiated with the bank. I ended paying R2 000,00 and I indicated to the bank that I was planning to pay off the house within two months.
My understanding was that the bank was to stop the auction. The fact that they accepted my payment of R2 000,00 was for me indication that we had an agreement as I once paid them over R30 000,00 when I was in a similar situation before.
Immediately after hearing the news of the sale of the house, I tried to get legal advice. My sister referred me to a lawyer who was based in Gauteng. I paid his return bus fare from Johannesburg to George. I also paid for his food, accommodation and his legal fees. We went to the bank immediately on his arrival. The bank confirmed to him that the house was sold. He indicated that due to the complexity and urgency of the case, he will deal directly with the bank’s lawyers at their head office in Gauteng.
After that meeting, it was uphill between me and this lawyer. I tried in vain to get him to update me on progress made. He told me on numerous telephonic encounters that things were under control. At some stage he even promised to come meet with me personally and give a full report. I relaxed a little beat because of his reassurances.
I was shocked to receive an eviction order around August 2007. I contacted my lawyer demanding that he give me an explanation about what was happening. He just got angry and there was a terrible spat of words between but no solution. It was at that precise moment that I decided to get another legal support.
1. 4. Legal support: Two
I was desperate now. I was being evicted from my house and I had no money. I contacted the provincial offices of Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape and I was referred to Mr Ali of the RED Door Centre in Oudtshoorn. Mr Ali referred me to a lawyer who was working for the Legal Aid Board.
I met with this lawyer, Mr. Brits, at their offices in George. The legal support that I received here was a success as they managed to set the eviction order aside. Some of the support I receive here was lifting the suspension of my municipal services.
The main problem, the selling of the house, remained unsolved. As the lawyers were preparing to present my case at the High Court in Cape Town, my file was lost at their head office. This was a major blow because the loss of the file delayed the whole process. The consequence of the loss of the file was that the house was eventually registered on the name of the person who bought my house. This happened without me having had an opportunity to put my side of the story.
This person who bought my house is harassing me now on a regular basis irrespective of the fact that there is still a dispute about the house. The file has been found and the case will resume at the High Court but the intimidation and harassment from this man is relentless. He even brought his daughter film one of our encounters. I felt so naked, disrespected and embarrassed in front of my community. My dignity, the respect of my children is being taken away and I must watch helpless while everything that I’ve struggled for all these years is taken from me.
I had to hire another lawyer as my lawyer was on leave and nobody else wanted to help. I was told in strict terms that I was not the only client who needed assistance. The lawyers cannot waist all their time assisting me. This is coming from people who lost my file all this time. I appreciate what they have done for me so far, but sometimes their conduct is satisfactory.
I’m not only losing a house, I’m losing a home, my livelihood, a legacy for my children. This for me is a commitment I made a long time ago for my children under extreme hardships. Owning this house has always given me hope for something better in days to come. I want get my house back, I want answers. What did the bank do with the over R30 000,00 amount that I paid earlier on? How can the bank mislead me like this? Take my money knowing that they were going to sell my house anyway. What can I do about the lawyer who took my money and disappeared? So many questions …….
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