Press Statements

  • City of Johannesburg dumps Fattis Mansions residents in a field at gun point (21 July 2017). The City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) has moved the residents of Fattis Mansions to a field to the south of the inner city, at gun point. Despite being ordered to provide alternative accommodation by the High Court on 19 July 2017, the City has still not provided any shelter to the residents, many of whom own their units in Fattis Mansions. The residents and their furniture have been dumped in a field outside the Wemmer building, which houses City-run rental accommodation. The Wemmer building is full, however, and is not able to accommodate any of the residents. The residents are sitting on the ground with their furniture. >>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
  • 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

For a full list of op-eds written by SERI staff, see here.

 

Popular Education

  • SERI and AbM host paralegal workshop in Pietermaritzburg (23 May 2015). On 23 May 2015 Abahlali baseMjondolo and SERI held a workshop with approximately 60 residents of the Tumbleweed informal settlement, located outside of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. The settlement is currently under the threat of eviction and represented by SERI. Participants at the workshop discussed their legal rights against unlawful evictions, methods of organising themselves, and screened the documentary film Dear Mandela. The workshop was presented by SERI staff members Michael Leonard and Lwazi Mshiyo was based on the recently launched Dear Mandela Toolkit.
  • SERI and AbM host paralegal workshop in Durban (20 May 2015). On 16 and 17 May SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) hosted a paralegal workshop with community activists based in and around Durban. The workshop covered a broad range of legal topics including defending against lawful evictions, resisting unlawful evictions, identifying the unlawful use of court interdicts as eviction orders, and the criminalization of public protest. The workshop was presented by SERI staff members Bhavna Ramji and Mbekezeli Benjamin, and was based on the recently launched Dear Mandela Toolkit.
  • SERI holds Inner City Workshop for building committees (27 March 2015). On Sunday 22 March 2015 SERI held an Inner City Workshop for committee members from a number of buildings where we represent the residents. 39 people attended the workshop from 14 inner city buildings, including: MBV 1, 54 Soper Road, Ekuthuleni, Jeanwell Court and Koch Mansions. The aim of the workshop was to share experiences across the different buildings and discuss a collective way forward on issues of evictions and affordable rental housing in the inner city. 
  • SERI partners with CUBES to host workshop on tenants' rights in Braamfontein (18 October 2014). SERI and the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies at the University of Witwatersrand (CUBES) conducted a workshop on tenants' rights and the law related to rental housing in South Africa for approximately 30 tenants from Yeoville and Rosettenville, two areas in Johannesburg where tenants remain particularly vulnerable. The workshop was based around two resource guides SERI produced in partnership with CUBES that can be accessed here and here.
  • SERI conducts second "Dear Mandela" workshop in Diepkloof, Soweto (6 September 2014). On 6 September, SERI partnered with the Soweto Concerned Residents (SCR) to host its second "Dear Mandela" workshop in Diepkloof, Soweto. The workshop consisted of a screening of the documentary, a facilitated discussion to explore the main themes arising from the film and an interactive training session which provided activists with information on how to resist evictions. The workshop was attended by approximately 20 community activists.
  • SERI hosts workshop on the findings of the Community Practice Notes: Informal Settlement Series (4 September 2014). On 4 September, SERI hosted a workshop to present the findings of the Community Practice Notes: Informal Settlement Series published in August 2014. The first series of community practice notes documents how CBOs in four informal settlements have organised and mobilised in their struggles for development, particularly around in situ upgrading of informal settlements. Representatives from the CBOs profiled in the series participated in the workshop which aimed to discuss and evaluate the tactics and strategies employed by CBOs, as well as unpack the challenges faced by communities fighting for development. Find the community practice notes here and see photos of the workshop here.
  • SERI conducts pilot "Dear Mandela" screening and workshop in Lindelane informal settlement (30 May 2014). SERI partnered up with the directors of the full length documentary film "Dear Mandela" and Local Government Action (LGA) to host a pilot Dear Mandela audience engagement workshop for approximately 40 people in Lindelane informal settlement outside Daveyton. Lindelani residents face a severe lack of basic services and are subject to constant threat of eviction. The workshop consisted of a screening of the film, followed by a discussion about the directors' work with the shackdwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo. Using the film as a springboard, SERI engaged the community about defending themselves from illegal evictions, their right to protest and ways to engage local government officials. See photos of the workshop here.
  • SERI hosts second inner city housing workshop (12 April 2014). As a follow up to the workshop held in August 2013, SERI covened a workshop on organising and mobilising in Hillbrow in April 2014. The workshop was attended by members of a number of inner city building committees involved in evictions litigation. Representatives from Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) and Informal Settlement Network (ISN) gave presentations on their organisations' strategies and tactics, which fed into a broader discussion on mobilisation in the inner city context.

For a full archive of all SERI's popular education work between 2010 and 2013 see here.

 

Dear Mandela

The documentary film Dear Mandela portrays the struggles of young activists from the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM)  movement, who have resisted mass evictions in the face of violence and intimidation since 2005.

In 2015 SERI and the Dear Mandela filmmakers, Dara Kell and Chris Nizza from Sleeping Giant Films, launched an audience engagement project, which included a national screening tour and a series of community workshops throughout the country. The project was generously funded by The Ford Foundation. Read more about the project and the screenings here.

Dear Mandela Toolkit

Dear Mandela Toolkit

SERI and Dear Mandela have also developed a toolkit aimed at informing communities of their rights and helping them to organise and mobilise around these rights.

The toolkit contains the following resources:

The toolkit will be distributed to community leaders and members during the film screenings and community workshops.

Get involved!

For general information about the project, workshops or toolkit, contact Dennis Webster at SERI: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For information on hosting a screening of the film, contact Dara Kell: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Submissions

  • 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 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: Zulu, Fischer 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.

  • 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 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.

 

Civil Society Coordination

  • SERI hosts soundboard meeting on the development of guidelines to the implementation of large-scale relocations (6 June 2014). In June 2014 SERI and Probono.Org hosted a soundboard meeting on the development of guidelines to the implementation of large-scale relocations in eviction cases and instances of voluntary relocation. The soundboard meeting was attended by representatives from various civil society organisations and legal NGOs and provided an opportunity for SERI to present its draft guidelines to the group. The guidelines draw on the legal principles that govern relocations, as developed through case law, as well as SERI's practical experience in implementing relocations.
  • SERI hosts civil society roundtable on housing demand and allocation (3 April 2013). SERI and the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN) are hosting a roundtable discussion on 3 April 2013 in Johannesburg. The roundtable discussion will provide an opportunity for SERI to present the findings of a research report entitled "'Jumping the Queue', Waiting Lists and other Myths: Perceptions and Practice around Housing Demand and Allocation in South Africa". This report was written together with the Community Law Centre (CLC), based at the University of the Western Cape, and will be published in April 2013.
  • Workshop on coordinating civil society around informal settlement upgrading (28 September 2010). SERI and the LANDfirst network (coordinated by Afesis-corplan) organised a workshop in Johannesburg for NGOs, think tanks, CSOs, social movements, lawyers and academics around coordinating efforts to advance informal settlement upgrading in South Africa. Read the workshop report here.

 

Conferences and Events

  • The 2nd Annual Urban Land Justice Colloquium (12-13 October 2015). Ndifuna Ukwazi and SERI co-hosted the second annual Urban Land Justice Colloquium. The event opened on 12 October with a keynote address by Judge Siraj Desai. On 13 October, panelists from communities who have endured struggles for land and security of tenure, or who have worked with government to improve their living environment, shared their experiences and insights. Scholars and researchers in the fields of urban studies and city planning introduced the new Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA), and explored its potential as a tool for achieving spatial justice in South Africa’s cities. SERI's director of research and advocacy, Lauren Royston, spoke on the prospects for informal settlement upgrading in SPLUMA. Download the programme here.
  • SERI's executive director on the panel for SAHRC's National Hearing on Access to Housing, Local Governance and Service Delivery (24 February 2015). Between 23 and 25 February 2015 SERI's executive director Stuart Wilson will sit as a member of a panel constituted for the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) first National Hearing on Access to Housing, Local Governance and Service Delivery. The panel also consists of Commissioner Pregs Govender and Commissioner Mohamed Shafie Ameermia.
  • SERI partners with SALGA to host eviction law workshop for municipalities in the Western Cape (28 October 2014). On 28 October 2014 SERI partnered with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to conduct a workshop on the law related to evictions, held in Caledon in the Western Cape. The workshop aimed at presenting the legal obligations in relation to evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation to enable officials to develop appropriate responses to housing and eviction-related issues. Over 50 government officials and councillors from various municipalities and departments attended. This was the third in a series of similar workshops to be conducted across the country.
  • SERI partners with SALGA to host eviction law workshop for municipalities in KwaZulu Natal (2 October 2014). SERI partnered with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to conduct a workshop on the law related to evictions and alternative accommodation, in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal on 2 October 2014. The workshop presented the legal obligations in relation to evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation to over 60 government officials and councillors from various municipalities and departments, with the aim to assist officials develop appropriate responses to housing and eviction-related issues. This was the second in a series of similar workshops to be conducted across the country. Download SERI's presentation here.
  • SERI partners with SALGA to host eviction law workshop for municipalities in the Eastern Cape (18 September 2014). On 18 September 2014, SERI partnered with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) for a workshop on the law related to evictions, in East London in the Eastern Cape. The workshop aimed at presenting the legal obligations in relation to evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation to local government officials and councillors in order for them to develop more appropriate responses to housing and eviction-related issues in their jurisdictions. This was the first in a series of similar workshops that will be conducted in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape. Download SERI's presentation here.
  • Regional consultation on security of tenure for the urban poor held in Johannesburg by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing (27-28 May 2013). On 27 and 28 May 2013, SERI co-hosted a regional consultation in Johannesburg on "Security of Tenure for the Urban Poor", together with the Ford Foundation, the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik. The consultation was attended by government, civil society, academic and professional representatives from South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, Madagascar, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda. During 2013, the Special Rapporteur is focusing on developing guidelines on security of tenure, specifically focused on the urban poor and in particular those living in informal settlements. By the end of 2013, she will submit to the UN Human Rights Council her report and recommendations, which will stem from the consultations and research conducted in 2013. Read the report on the Johannesburg regional consultationhere. For more information on the study on security of tenure and related reports see here.
  • Ford Foundation Right to Housing Convening, 14 - 16 September 2010. SERI was invited by the Ford Foundation to organise a three-day right to housing convening of Ford Foundation grantees and experts from different regions working on the right to housing. Representives from organisations based in Egypt, India, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States attended the conference. The aim was for those working on right to housing issues in various countries to discuss common problems and solutions, thereby contributing towards better coordination, networking and relationship building. The programme is available here and a comprehensive report on the conference is available here.