Time-space / Space-Time and the Schubart Park case’s courts as chronotopes

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Inhabitance and Habitat

The city council argued that the removal of the residents was an evacuation, and not an eviction. Based on this distinction they deemed it unnecessary to enter into meaningful consultation or provide alternative accommodation and therefore the city council’s case was mainly based on factual evidence presented in support of Schubart Park as a structure and as a habitat. The evacuation/ eviction distinction in the Schubart Park case connects to habitat/ inhabitance.
Inhabitance is linked to lived space whereas habitat is connected to abstract space. In the context of Schubart Park, the inhabitants of Schubart Park articulated their need for inhabitance of the block, for living, for dwelling in Schubart Park as a way of being in the world. The high court disregarded the attention they drew to inhabitance and the fact that the apartment block, despite the horrid living conditions was still inhabitable.
With reference to expert evidence and regarding Schubart Park as abstract space, they heard evidence on the apartment complex as a habitat. None of the Schubart Park residents were asked to give evidence in the high court case. Meanwhile, the city council called three ‘experts’ to testify on the conditions of the building. For the application to appeal brought in the supreme court of appeal, the city council obtained a report form a structural engineer to present as evidence and it was admitted as evidence in the appeal case. In response to this report by the city council, the attorneys of the residents obtained their own report from a structural engineer, but the application to have this report admitted as evidence in the constitutional court was dismissed. Before I deal with the content of the expert reports, I want to point out the fact that the courts (law) constructed Schubart Park’s sense of place predominantly on the evidence of professional expert witnesses. The city council enlisted these witnesses while the voices of the residents, save for that of Anita Watkins, were not heard and the evidence of the expert enlisted by the residents was also not heard. The experiential and place-based expertise of residents on their living conditions can be a powerful political and legal tool. Here, the Schubart Park residents tried to challenge the expertise of the professionals who testified on the state of the buildings, with which the residents were intimately familiar.

The politics of inhabitance and the violence of habitat

One of the important features of the removal of residents from blocks A, B and C193 in September 2011, was that it did not happen within any of the relevant legal frameworks. The city council could have relied on the proceedings provided for in the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act if it wanted to follow the route of declaring the building derelict and dangerous.194 Alternatively, it could have instituted eviction proceedings in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act,195 if it wanted to claim that the residents were unlawfully occupying the flats. Watkins demands that ‘not even during a disaster can an eviction take place outside a legal framework’.196 She strongly denies the suggestion that the residents vacated the buildings on a voluntary basis. Instead, Watkins states that they wereremoved from their homes by force.197 The city council’s failure to operate within any one of the applicable legal frameworks not only underscores the lack of respect for the tenants and the homes they made in the buildings on ‘fallow’ land, but it also supports the statement by Watkins that the removal ‘had nothing to do with the general state of the buildings’.198 This paves the way for her dispute of several crucial ‘facts’ accepted in the North Gauteng high court: she contests the facts presented on the conditions of the building prior to 21 September2011, the city council’s claims around the restoration of electricity to the building, the suggestion that substantive damage was caused by the events on 11 September, estimations of the number of residents who inhabited the building at the time of the removals and the crucial question of whether they were lawful occupants or not.199 Regarding the conditions of the building before and immediately after 21 September 2011, Watkins points out that the reports that were used by the city council in the North Gauteng high court were all drafted long before the events of 21 September transpired and they were drafted specifically with a view of supporting the refurbishment that never took place. She states that these reports were simply altered for purposes of the urgent proceedings on 22 September 2011 in the North Gauteng high court.
Lefebvre problematizes the science of the city, which has the city as object of study, and the silence of the working class in conceiving of cities. Specific urban needs should constitute specific places of ‘simultaneity and encounters, places where exchange would not go through exchange value, commerce and profit’.201 Bringing this back to the Schubart Park housing complex, the initial evacuation of the residents was the silencing of the working class, the continued operations and lack thereof at Schubart Park display a further disregard for the working class. This silence, Lefebvre argues, brings about an absence of both the subject and the object and he suggests two ways to address this.203 Firstly a political programme of urban reform not defined by the framework of the current society, not limited to reform and not subject to a ‘realism’. Secondly, mature planning projects that do not shy away because of the feasibility of their utopian aspects. ‘Urban life has yet to begin’ and the current imperative is to take up new intellectual tools and develop new theories.
The eviction of approximately 700 families started out as a police operation against crime, according to Watkins. She emphasises that the nationality and background of the heads of the households in Schubart Park were diverse; the current residents were demographically very different from the white civil servants that the city had intended as tenants for the racially segregated modernist housing complexes.206 She traces the origins of the problems and the ‘serious mismanagement which caused conditions to deteriorate’ to 2000 when Schubart Park was transferred from the Provincial Government to the City of Tshwane.207 As early as 2008, three years before the 2011 evictions, the conditions of the building were already considered ‘dangerous’.
208 The central argument posed by Watkins is that the events that transpired on the 21st of September 2011 did not materially alter the conditions at Schubart Park. The dangerous conditions and general bad state of the building were due to ten years of ‘neglect and mismanagement’ by the city council and not because of the fire that erupted in block C, as the city council claimed.209 The city council’s defence in the North Gauteng high court was that 21 September was a ‘watershed moment’ and that it ‘pushed the building past the point that it was suitable for human habitation’.210
Watkins continuously stresses that the city council and not the residents should be held responsible for the circumstances in Schubart Park.211 The city council claimed that the mass public violence made their conduct on the day of 21 September 2011 necessary, but Watkins points out that only 60 out of the approximately 4000 residents participated and were arrested, which is a very small percentage of the total population of the apartment block. Even though blocks A and B were still occupied on the 22nd, those arriving home after the events of the day were denied entrance to the building and spent the night on the street. The residents were profiled as criminal, violent, and responsible for the deterioration of the buildings that the city council refused to maintain in good repair. Men and women experienced the effect of this evacuation/eviction differently. Some of the men could find some shelter in bars and clubs, while this option was not available to women. Some women returned on the night of the 22nd, perhaps with their babies on their backs there was no longer a home with a kettle where they could boil water to prepare bottles for their children. These lived realities raise the importance of acknowledging not only class, but definitely also gender in the story of Schubart Park.

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Chapter 1
1.1. Research problem
1.2. City of Tshwane/ Pretoria
1.3. The spatial turn (in law)
1.4. Leibniz and Lefebvre: the importance of relative space
1.5. Approach and methodology
1.6. Research questions and chapter overview
Chapter 2
Schubart Park: women’s voices and the right to the city
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Schubart Park
2.3. The right to the city
2.4. Inhabitance and Habitat
2.5. Schubart Park as a gendered space
2.6. The everyday as gendered and tactics as practices of everyday life
2.7. Time-space / Space-Time and the Schubart Park case’s courts as chronotopes
2.8. Conclusion
Chapter 3
Drawing lines: street names, mapping and a sense of belonging
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Street names: cases overview
3.3. Belonging
3.4. Mapping
3.5. Conclusion
Chapter 4
Grand narratives in the Capital City
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Bio-power and the lawscape
4.3. Apartheid and colonial master narratives: a cluster of acts, political trials, capital punishment, the sanitation syndrome
4.4. Post-apartheid grand narratives: Tshwane 2055 and the state of (the) Capital addresses
4.5. Spatial Justice
4.6. Legal Culture as genius loci
4.7. The lurking positivism and formalist error in spatial justice
4.8. Conclusion
Chapter 5


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