Press Statements

  • Rhodes University expels two student activists for life over April 2016 protests (12 December 2017). SERI represents Yolanda Dyantyi, a student activist,   matters concerning her participation in anti-rape protests on the Rhodes University campus during April 2016. In March 2017, months after the protests, the university instituted disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Dyantyi. Ms. Dyantyi was convicted in her absence, and permanently excluded from the university. All of her most recent examinations were invalidated. As far as SERI has been able to ascertain, this is the harshest penalty the niversity has imposed for ten years for any offence whatsoever, including rape and sexual violence on campus. >>Read the full statement here.

  • High Court orders the City of Cape Town to purchase or expropriate land in ground-breaking judgment (31 August 2017). The Western Cape High Court has dismissed an application to evict 60 000 people living in the “Marikana” informal settlement in Philippi near Cape Town finding that this was not a reasonable or constitutional option available to the state. Instead, the court found that the only reasonable option was for the state to purchase or expropriation the Marikana land to avoid making the Marikana residents homeless. The court directed the City to initiate this process by entering into good faith negotiations to purchase the Marikana land, and expropriating the land in the event that purchase negotiations failed. >>Read the full press statement here.

  • City of Johannesburg leaves 257 men, women and children out in the cold despite court orders (20 July 2017). The High Court has ordered the City of Johannesburg to accommodate 257 men, women and children who were evicted yesterday from Fattis Mansions at 66 Harrison Street, Johannesburg. The residents of the property approached the court on an urgent basis last night at 7pm, to obtain an order allowing them to return  to the building. Justice van der Linde ordered the City to accommodate the residents overnight while he considered his judgment. However the City failed to comply, forcing residents to spent the night out in the cold. This morning Justice van der Linde refused to restore the residents to the building, on the basis that the property is not safe for occupation, and directed the City to provide the residents with emergency accommodation immediately. By 3pm the City had not complied with either of these orders. >>Read the full press statement here.

  • SERI launches new guide on relocations to alternative accommodation (17 July 2017). On 20 July 2017, SERI launched a resource guide, entitled Relocating to Alternative Accommodation: Legal and Practical Guidelines. Relocations have the potential to severely disrupt peoples’ lives and negatively impact their livelihoods, community relations and sense of security. To make sure this doesn’t happen, the relocation process should be carefully planned, well-run and participatory. SERI developed these guidelines to assist those involved in the relocation process, including legal practitioners and government officials dealing with housing, to navigate the complexities involved in carrying out a relocation. The guidelines offer practical guidance on how to ensure that relocations are carried out in a way that respects the constitutional rights of the people being relocated. >>Read the full media alert here.

  • Cape York Fire (6 July 2017). On 05 July 2017, the Cape York building in Johannesburg caught fire again, killing 7 people and injuring 7 others. Fires in Inner City buildings and settlements without water, sanitation and electricity are not uncommon, and this is not the first fire in the Cape York building. The City of Johannesburg has failed to provide meaningful solutions to help poor people who are inadequately housed in the Inner City. Life threatening conditions in unmanaged, unregulated and un-serviced Inner City buildings must be addressed. Owners of these buildings must be brought to book by the City. Residents seeking basic services can no longer be turned away by the City because they are not property owners. >>Read the full press statement here.
  • Constitutional Court issues ground-breaking housing judgment (8 June 2017). The Constitutional Court held that evictions that lead to homelessness are unlawful, even if they are agreed to by all of the residents who stand to be evicted. Judges must make sure that people under threat of eviction are properly informed of their rights to contest eviction proceedings and claim alternative accommodation. In addition, judges must investigate the circumstances of all residents in order to assess the impact that an eviction will have on them. >>Read the full press statement here.
  • Winnie Mandela residents challenge housing fraud in Tembisa (22 May 2017). One hundred and thirty-three residents of the Winnie Mandela informal settlement challenged the Ekurhuleni Municipality’s failure to given them possession of housing constructed with their subsidies.The residents live in shacks at the Winnie Mandela informal settlement in Tembisa. Each of the applicants had applied for, and been allocated, a state-subsidised house in the adjacent Winnie Mandela Park township. Each of the residents’ subsidies was then used to develop a specific stand on a specific site in Winnie Mandela Park. But these stands were not given to the residents. They were occupied by other people. >>Read the full media alert here.
  • Inner city residents victorious in resisting eviction (19 May 2017). The Johannesburg High Court today set aside an eviction order granted against 84 men, women and children living at 8 O’Reilly Street, Hillbrow in Johannesburg’s inner city. The Court held that the eviction order should not have been made without the City of Johannesburg (“the City”) being part of the proceedings. The City is obliged to ensure that the eviction of the community would not result in homelessness. >>Read the full press statement here
  • Launch of new video emphasises lack of justice for Marikana (20 March 2017). At 9h30 on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2017, families of the mineworkers killed at Marikana, mineworkers and members of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), with the support of the Marikana Support Campaign, gathered in Slovo Park to commemorate the Sharpeville and Marikana massacres. The event will included the launch of a new SERI short film, Bringing the Truth Home, and started a week-long campaign to raise awareness about the slow progress of the state and Lonmin in ensuring that there is justice for the victims of Marikana. >>Read the full media alert here.
  • SERI and SAITF launch new resource guide for informal traders (20 March 2017). On Wednesday 22 March 2017 SERI, in partnership with the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF), launched a new resource guide for informal traders in Johannesburg. The launch took place at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. Informal Trade in Johannesburg: Your Rights is a resource guide for informal traders making a living in Johannesburg which spells out what their rights are, and what avenues are available to ensure those rights are protected. >>Read the full media alert here.
  • 60 000 informal settlement occupiers resist eviction in the High Court (7 February 2017). SERI appeared in the Western Cape High Court between 8 February 2017 and 15 February 2017, representing the approximately 60 000 occupiers of the Marikana informal settlement, located in Phillipi on the Cape Flats. The occupiers argued that there is no humane and dignified manner in which a settlement of that size could be evicted or relocated. They asked the court to grant an order requiring the City of Cape Town to consider the  expropriation  of  the  land. >>Read the full media alert here.

For a full archive of all SERI press statements from 2010 to 2016 see here.

 

Op-eds

 

Submissions

  • Submission on the City of Johannesburg Draft Land Use Scheme, 2017. SERI submitted written comments on the City of Johannesburg Draft Land Use Scheme, which intends to give effect to section 24(1) of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act 16 of 2013 (SPLUMA) by replacing the prevailing 16 town planning schemes with a single consolidated land use scheme. SERI's submission raises a number of concerns about the land use scheme, including that the scheme criminalises unauthorised land use, fails to give the users and occupiers of land sufficient standing, and fails to make progressive use of special zones and the incremental introduction of land use management to address the challenges posed by informal settlements. >>Read the draft land use scheme here and SERI's submission on the scheme here.
  • Submission on the Gauteng Land Invasion Management and Prevention Policy, 2017. SERI submitted written comments on the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements (the Department)'s Gauteng Land Invasion Management and Prevention Policy, which seeks to regulate unlawful occupation of land in the province. SERI's submission clarifies the law; argues that the policy is an inappropriate response to urbanisation and is likely to encourage evictions; questions the lack of clarity about “registration permits” and “site allocations” and the Department’s silence on the appropriateness of Anti-Land Invasion Units; and raises concerns about the policy's failure to prioritise proactive ways to address unlawful land occupation. >>Read the policy here and SERI's submission on the policy here.
  • Submission on the City of Johannesburg’s Special Process for the Relocation of Evictees, 5 October 2016. SERI submitted comments on the City of Johannesburg's draft Special Process for the Relocation of Evictees (SPRE). SPRE has been formulated as the City’s response to its constitutional obligation to provide temporary alternative accommodation to occupants who might be rendered homeless by an eviction. >>Read SERI's submission here.
  • Submission on #StopTheSale, 9 June 2016. On 19 May 2016, the Western Cape Government published an invitation for interested parties to comment on its intention to sell two properties in Tafelberg to a private day school. SERI submitted comment to the Province. We argue that in the Tafelberg site the Western Cape Government has a unique opportunity to provide affordable, well-located rental housing.  Instead of using the property for this purpose, the Province has chosen to release this land into the private market, where social control over this publicly-held asset will be lost forever. >>Read SERI's submission here.
  • Submission on the City of Johannesburg's draft Spatial Development Framework, 29 March 2016. SERI submitted comments on the City of Johannesburg's draft Spatial Development Framework (SDF). The SDF is a city-wide spatial policy document identifying the main challenges and opportunities in the city, setting a spatial vision for the future city, and outlining a set of strategies that would lead to the realisation of that vision. SERI's submission focuses on three topics: Spatial Justice, Provision of Affordable Housing, and Informal Work. >>Read SERI's submission here and a summary of the submission here.
  • Submission on the City of Johannesburg’s Municipal Planning By-Law 2015, 1 March 2016. On 29 January 2016, the City of Johannesburg (the City) published an invitation to comment on its Municipal Planning By-Law, 2015. The By-Law is published pursuant to the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, 16 of 2013 (SPLUMA). SPLUMA and the By-Law set out development principles which apply to all organs of state and other authorities responsible for the implementation of legislation regulating the use and development of land. >>Read SERI's full submission here.
  • Submission on the amendmentsto Rule 46 of the Uniform Rules of Court and Rule 43 of the Magistrates’ Court Rules, 29 January 2016. On 29 January 2016, SERI made a submission to the Rules Board for Courts of Law (the Rules Board) in response to an invitation for interested parties to comment on proposed amendments to Rule 46 of the Uniform Rules of Court and Rule 43 of the Magistrates’ Court Rules. These Rules regulate the sale in execution of immovable property in the higher courts and magistrates’ courts respectively. >>Read SERI's full submission here.

  • Submission to the Lwandle Ministerial Enquiry, 10 September 2014. On 10 September 2014, SERI made submissions before the Lwandle Ministerial Enquiry. The inquiry was established by the Minister of Human Settlements to investigate the circumstances under which the violent eviction of over 800 residents of the Lwandle community in Cape Town on 2 and 3 June 2014 took place. SERI's submission briefly summarises eviction law in South Africa, and examines three cases where the constitutional and legislative protections for unlawful occupiers were circumvented: ZuluFischer and Lwandle. it also looks at proactive ways that the state can address land occupation. >>Read SERI's full submission here. Read the final report by the Enquiry here.
  • Submission on the Budget Vote Speech of the Minister of Human Settlements, 28 July 2014. SERI has submitted written comments to the Budget Vote Speech of the Minister of Human Settlements in accordance with the Minister's call for debate on housing in the country. SERI welcomes various aspects of the speech, including the acknowledgement that the rate of delivery of state-subsidised housing has, problematically, been in decline and that there is no credible data against which municipalities can verify the allocation of state-subsidised housing. Issues of concern include the lack of any engagement with informal settlement upgrading and the problematic assumption that social housing could provide low-cost rental accommodation for the urban poor. SERI discusses these issues and states that it is willing to engage the Department of Human Settlements in relation thereto. >>Read the Minister's Budget Vote Speech here and SERI's submission here.
  • Submission on the proposed amendment of Rule 46 of the Uniform Rules of Court and Rule 43 of the Magistrates’ Court Rules, 28 February 2014. SERI has submitted written comments to the Rules Board for Courts of Law on the proposed amendment of the court rules regulating the sale in execution of a debtor’s home to satisfy a judgment debt. At present the Rules provide for sales in execution “without reserve”. The Rules Board proposes that courts should, in the exercise of their judicial oversight function, be able to set the reserve price at which a sale in execution of primary residential property should commence. SERI supports the proposed amendment provided that the setting of reserve prices is made mandatory and that reserve prices are linked to the value of the property in question. This would provide significant protection to poor debtors who are at risk of losing their accommodation and most valuable financial assets. >>Read the proposed amendments here and SERI's submission here.
  • Submission on the City of Johannesburg's Draft By-Laws on Problem Properties, 12 December 2013. SERI has submitted written comments to the City of Johannesburg on their Draft By-Laws on Problem Properties. SERI argues that there are a number of problematic aspects with the by-laws, including the following: they fail to take into consideration the Abahlali decision; they will encourage evictions and homelessness; they fail to provide for meaningful engagement; and they contain vague provisions, over-broad powers and unfettered discretion. >>Read SERI's submission on the draft by-laws here.
  • SERI submission on the Mpumalanga Eradication, Prevention and Control of Informal Settlements Bill, 4 December 2012. SERI has written a submission on the recently published Mpumalanga Eradication, Prevention and Control of Informal Settlements Bill, 2012. The submission is endorsed by a number of individuals and organisations, including Abahlali baseMjondolo, Batho Land and Shelter (BLS), Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies (CUBES), Built Environment Support Group (BESG), Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Planact and Urban LandMark. >> Read the Bill here and the joint submission here.

  • SERI submission on the National Sanitation Policy, 2011. The National Sanitation Programme within the Department of Human Settlements (DHS), together with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), is revising the 2001 White Paper on Basic Household Sanitation. Read SERI's submissions on the draft National Sanitation Policy here.

  • SERI involved in SAHRC hate speech complaint hearing, 28 November 2011. SERI's Director of Litigation, Stuart Wilson has been appointed as an advisor to the South African Human Rights Commission's panel currently considering a range of complaints of hate speech against Julius Malema made by the Afrikanerbond. His submissions emphasise the need to consider harmful or offensive political speech in context, and to construe hate speech law narrowly in a manner which impinges as little as possible on freedom of expression. Read more here.

  • Submission on the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill, 2011 (SPLUMB). National government is in the process of creating national legislation on spatial planning and land use management in South Africa. This process has been stalled numerous times since the White Paper on Spatial Planning and Land Use Management was gazetted over ten years ago in 2001. See the proposed legislation here and SERI's submission here. Also of interest are submissions by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR).

  • Submission on the Limpopo Prevention and Control of Informal Settlements Bill, 2011. A number of organisations and individuals have endorsed a submission on this proposed provincial legislation which was drafted by SERI. The submission inter alia describes how the Bill does not have sufficient regard to the decision of the Constitutional Court in Abahlali baseMjondolo v The Premier of KwaZulu Natal 2010 (2) BCLR 99 (CC), which was far from being a qualified endorsement of the KwaZulu Natal (KZN) Slums Act. Read the submission here. SERI has also endorsed a comment on the Bill from a policy perspective, written by Prof Marie Huchzermeyer. Read the comment here.

  • SERI endorses civil society request for extension to Zimbabwe Documentation Project, 9 December 2010. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) together with a number of civil society organisations, including SERI, have endorsed a letter of complaint to the Office of the Public Protector, requesting that the deadline for Zimbabwe Documentation Project be extended. The Department of Home Affairs has refused to extend the deadline for new applications to the Zimbabwe Documentation Project, despite a number of problems with the process. Read the LHR press release here and the letter to the Public Protector here.

  • SERI endorses Submission on the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, 2010. SERI has endorsed the Aids Law Project (ALP) Submission on the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, which raises some serious concerns around access to justice and the rule of law. The submission focuses on two of the proposed amendments, namely the insertion of the definition of 'disability' and the change in the appeal procedure following an adverse decision in respect of an application for a disability grant.  ALP and SERI are of the view that the definition, although intended to clarify who is eligible for a grant and who is not, is actually vague and will not assist decision-makers or applicants for grants and will compound confusion in the system.  The amendment to the appeal process essentially introduces a double appeal, which will likely lead to even greater delays in the finalisation of the disability grant application process and to an infringement of rights. Read the Submission and Annexure (16 April 2010), as well as a Supplementary Submission (28 April 2010).

  • SERI comments on the 2010/11 national budget. SERI was asked to comment on the 2010/11 Budget Speech by Minister Gordhan, choosing to focus on issues around meaningful engagement, industrial policy, informal trading, housing and basic services in its submission. Read the submission here.

 

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