• High Court sets aside FNB’s sale of mortgaged home, 13 December 2013. On 12 December 2013 the Pretoria High Court set aside the sale-in-execution of a mortgaged home belonging to a Soweto family. While the family had paid the entire amount due to the bank, it sold their home on public auction anyway. By SERI’s calculations (which FNB did not dispute) between the date on which summons was issued and the date on which the sale took place the Thwalas paid about R500 more than the total value of the default judgment, plus interest and other payments to FNB. >>Read the press release here.
  • JMPD officials disregard Con Court order, assault and arrest SERI lawyer, 5 December 2013. Nomzamo Zondo, an attorney from SERI who represents the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and over 1 200 informal traders, was arrested on the afternoon of 5 December by Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers in the Johannesburg CBD. Her arrest came only a few hours after the Constitutional Court interdicted the City of Johannesburg from interfering with lawful informal traders’ rights to trade in the inner city, pending the hearing of an application to the High Court to review the decision to implement the so-called Operation Clean Sweep campaign in the inner city. >>Read the full press statement here. Update: Nomzamo was eventually charged with public violence and interfering with the duties of a uniformed police officer, and granted prosecutorial bail of R500 late on Thursday evening. The following morning all the charges against her were dropped.
  • Informal traders appeal to Con Court, 2 December 2013. The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and over 1 200 informal traders have applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the South Gauteng High Court order handed down on 27 November, which struck the traders’ case from the roll. SAITF wants the matter dealt with urgently and for the Constitutional Court to place the traders – who have always traded lawfully – in a position to continue with their lawful business activities, pending the determination of the appeal (either to the Constitutional Court or to a Full Bench of the High Court). This trading would occur in line with the City of Johannesburg’s Informal Trading By-Laws at the locations the traders occupied immediately before their removal in terms of Operation Clean Sweep. >>Read the full SERI press release here.
  • Informal trader beaten by JMPD officers, 25 November 2013. On the afternoon of Friday 22 November 2013, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officials assaulted and arrested a number of informal traders in the inner city of Johannesburg. A female trader from Mozambique, who is currently represented by SERI, witnessed the assaults and was subsequently beaten and arrested. This press statement contains an account of the incident drawn from her statement. She remains anonymous as she will be laying charges against the police and fears being victimised. We refer to her in this press statement as “Belinda”. >>Read the press statement (25 November 2013) here.
  • SAITF in urgent court bid to assist informal traders, 20 November 2013. SERI has launched an urgent application in the South Gauteng High Court for an order returning 1211 informal traders to the streets. The application asks that the traders be permitted to trade in a manner consistent with the City’s Informal Trading By-Laws, at the locations they occupied immediately before their removal. The traders further request that the City be directed to re-erect the trading stalls removed, or alternatively to permit them to continue trading on the sites where those stalls previously stood. >> Read the SERI press release (20 November 2013) here.
  • Informal traders to take City of Joburg and JMPD to court over ‘Operation Clean Sweep’, 14 November 2013. The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and 1 500 informal traders sent a letter to the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) demanding that they be permitted to return to trading in the inner city. SAITF and the traders intend to bring an application to the Johannesburg High Court to review the decision to forcibly remove them and thousands of other traders under the auspices of the City’s ‘Operation Clean Sweep.’ >>Read the press release (14 November 2013) here.
  • SERI condemns the crack-down on informal traders in inner city Johannesburg, 23 October 2013. SERI notes with concern the sustained crack-down on informal traders that has taken place since 10 October under the auspices of a "clean up" initiative of the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg. These operations were characterised by Metro Police officials forcing thousands of informal traders to vacate their trading posts, as well as the demolition of stalls, confiscation and impounding of goods and physical assaults on informal traders. These operations threaten the essential livelihood opportunities and dignity of informal traders and should be condemned in the strongest terms. >>Read the press release here.
  • Durban officials face imprisonment for Cato Crest evictions, 9 September 2013. On Friday 6 September 2013 Abahlali baseMjondolo and residents of Cato Crest informal settlement approached the Durban High Court for a third time, to prevent the eThekwini Municipality from illegally destroying their homes. They applied for a contempt of court order against eThekwini Municipality. The Durban High Court granted a rule nisi (an interim order to be confirmed at a later date) which compels the Municipal Manager of eThekwini Municipality and the Head of the Land Invasion Unit to appear at court on Thursday 12 September to explain why they should not be imprisoned for 30 days for allowing illegal evictions to continue at Cato Crest in contempt of an order obtained on 2 September which prohibited the demolition of shacks. >>Read the press release here.
  • eThekwini Municipality goes rogue, illegally evicts residents, 2 September 2013. eThekwini Municipality has been evicting residents Of Cato Crest informal settlement in violation of an undertaking it made to the Durban High Court. Following illegal evictions at the settlement, the residents, together with Abahlali baseCato Crest (a newly formed branch of shackdwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo), approached the Durban High Court for an urgent interdict stopping the municipality and KZN MEC for Human Settlements from demolishing shacks at Cato Crest. On 23 August 2013, the residents’ application for interim relief was granted, following an undertaking by the state to the court that it would halt evictions at Cato Crest pending the finalisation of the application for a final order. >>Read the press release here.
  • Report argues housing 'queue' is a myth, 29 August 2013. On 29 August 2013, the Community Law Centre (CLC) and SERI officially launched a research report entitled 'Jumping the Queue', Waiting Lists and Other Myths: Perceptions and Practice around Housing Demand and Allocation in South Africa. >>Read the CLC and SERI press release here.
  • Tribunal: Landlords cannot profit off electricity ‘service charges', 18 June 2013. The Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal has handed down an important ruling for tenants, finding that the charging of an electricity "service charge" violates the Gauteng Unfair Practices Regulations and amounts to a profit which the landlord is not entitled to make. >>Read the SERI press release here.
  • Mayor of Joburg warned to house poor or face being held in contempt of court, 3 May 2013. On 3 May 2013, the Johannesburg High Court directed the Executive Mayor, City Manager and Director of Housing for the City of Johannesburg to personally explain why the City has not acted to provide shelter to the homeless, over 18 months after a Constitutional Court decision requiring it to do so. They must also take all the steps necessary to provide shelter to the 201 occupiers of Chung Hua Mansions at 191 Jeppe Street within two months. If they do not, they could be held in contempt, and be handed a fine or face jail time. >>Read the SERI press release here.
  • Minister of Police to pay damages to Abahlali members for police brutality, 22 April 2013. On 22 April 2013, the Durban High Court ordered the Minister of Police to pay a total of R165 000 in damages to two members of shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo - Sbu Zikode and Philani Zungu – and one resident of the Kennedy Road informal settlement. The order, made by agreement, comes after officers from Sydenham Police Station illegally arrested and assaulted Zungu while he and Zikode were travelling to a radio debate with the then KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Housing, Mike Mabuyakhulu, in September 2006. Other officers from Sydenham Police Station then illegally shot a woman at the Kennedy Road informal settlement. The woman was part of a crowd which had gathered to demonstrate against the arrest of Zikode and Zungu. >>Read the SERI and Abahlali media statement here.
  • Statement on behalf of the deceased miners’ families represented before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, 15 March 2013. The SERI Law Clinic has been instructed to release a statement on behalf of the families of the striking miners killed by the police on 16 August 2012. The families do not accept National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s “condolences”, offered before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry on 14 March 2013. They demand a full-throated apology from Commissioner Phiyega and an acknowledgement of responsibility for having killed their family members. >>Read the press statement here.
  • Families of Marikana deceased demand payment from SAPS, 28 February 2013. The families of those killed during the Marikana massacre are demanding payment from the SAPS for loss of support and general damages incurred as a result. They have given notice of their intention to sue the Minister of Police and the National Police Commissioner for damages. >>Read the press release here.
  • South Africa to ratify international socio-economic rights convenant, 12 October 2012. Human rights groups welcome Cabinet’s approval of South Africa’s ratification of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Almost eighteen years after the South African government signed the ICESCR, Cabinet has approved that South Africa will ratify the ICESCR. This important decision to ratify, which means that the ICESCR will be legally binding, was included in a statement issued yesterday on Cabinet’s ordinary meeting held in Pretoria on 10 October 2012. >>Read the press statement by the ICESCR Ratification Campaign here.
  • Kennedy Road shackdwellers sue police, 27 September 2012. Former residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban are pursuing damages claims against the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, three years after the police failed to protect them from an armed gang that invaded the settlement in September 2009. This is an important case because it holds the police responsible to prevent violence perpetuated by others when it is in a position to do so. >>Read the statement here.
  • Victory for forgotten shack dwellers, 19 September 2012. Following a hearing on 17 September 2012, Acting Judge Nigel Hollis in the Durban High Court granted an order in which he requires the Mayor of eThekwini, the City Manager and the Director of Housing to take all the necessary steps, within three months, to provide permanent housing to 37 poor families living in a transit camp near KwaMashu, Durban. This is line with a court order than was granted in 2009, which stated that the municipality should provide housing to the evicted occupiers by no later than a year from the date of the court order. This never happened and the families have been living at the camp ever since. If the municipal office-bearers do not comply with the High Court order, they may be held in contempt and fined or imprisoned. >>Read the media statement by SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo here.
  • Court rules on duties of courts, municipalities in eviction proceedings, 18 September 2012. SERI has contributed to an important SCA decision that establishes an appropriate set of procedures and standards in eviction proceedings which might lead to homelessness. On 14 September 2012, the SCA handed down judgment in the Tikwelo House case. >>Read the media statement here.
  • SERI to represent AMCU at the Marikana Commission, 14 September 2012. SERI has been instructed to represent the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. >>Read the media statement here.
  • Civil Society Statement Regarding the Killings at Marikana: A Demand for Justice and Truth, 3 September 2012. SERI, together with a number of other human rights and legal CSOs, published a joint statement on the killings at Marikana, commenting on the current status of the arrested miners, the TORs of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry, and the nature of the IPID investigation. >>Read the joint statement here.
  • Systemic breakdown in City’s shelter policy, Judge told, 14 June 2012. In the new Chung Hua eviction application, the City of Johannesburg told the South Gauteng High Court that its registration process for homeless people had broken down. Judge Claassen ordered the City to provide 181 adults and 17 children living at Chung Hua Mansions with alternative accommodation. The occupiers are to be provided with temporary shelter, where they may live “secure against eviction”, by no later than 30 January 2013. The City must also report to the Court setting out the nature and location of the alternative accommodation to be provided by no later than 31 October 2012. >>Read the SERI press statement here and more on the case here.
  • Con Court stands up for consumers in Sebola judgment, 7 June 2012. The Constitutional Court acted to protect debtors who default on their credit agreements, handing down judgment in the Sebola case. Section 129(1) of the National Credit Act requires that debtors in default of a credit agreement be informed of their rights to debt counselling and other alternatives to enforcement of the agreement. The Court held that a notice under section 129(1) must be properly delivered to the consumer, who will be entitled to contest the enforcement of the credit agreement in the event that she did not receive the notice. Until today, it was sufficient for a credit provider to show that it had sent the notice to the consumer’s address. It did not matter if the consumer had not received it. >>Read the SERI press statement here and more on the case here.
  • Con Court hands down Saratoga judgment, 24 May 2012. The Constitutional Court handed down reasons for dismissing an application by the Saratoga Avenue occupiers for the variation of the eviction order granted by the Court in December 2011 in the Blue Moonlight case. The Court found that it is not the appropriate forum to enforce or vary the orders it gives on appeal, unless it declares a statute unconstitutional, or makes a detailed supervisory order which may require variation in light of changed circumstances. In other situations, the parties should approach the court in which the case was first considered e.g. the Johannesburg High Court. >>Read the SERI and CALS press release here. Read more on the Blue Moonlight case here.
  • Court declares Soweto woman customary law heir to prevent eviction, 9 May 2012. On 8 May 2012, the Johannesburg High Court declared that a girl taken in and treated as a daughter by a woman in Soweto could inherit as her customary law heir, even though she was never formally adopted. This outcome is important, as there is currently an eviction case in the Magistrate's Court pending the outcome of the woman's status. A relative is attempting to evict her and two other people living at the family home. >>Read the press release here.
  • High Court suspends Con Court's eviction order in Blue Moonlight case, 13 April 2012. The Johannesburg High Court has temporarily suspended the execution of the eviction order handed down by the Constitutional Court in December 2011 in the Blue Moonlight case. The order had directed the occupiers to vacate their homes by no later than yesterday, 15 April 2012. The High Court decision is a victory for the residents, because the City had not met the Constitutional Court’s deadline. The residents faced homelessness if evicted. The execution of the Constitutional Court eviction order is suspended until 2 May 2012 and the City is ordered to provide shelter to the occupiers by 30 April 2012. The City is required to report back to the residents on its progress, and a site visit has also been ordered to examine the proposed new accommodation. Read the CALS and SERI press release here.
  • Magistrate strikes Thembelihle case from roll, 11 April 2012. On 10 April 2012, the Protea Regional Court struck from the roll a criminal case brought against 14 residents of Thembelihle informal settlement (including 3 minors). The residents were arrested in September 2011 following protests at the settlement over access to housing and electricity. Read the press release here and more on the case here.
  • ConCourt ruling could make residents homeless, 30 March 2012. The Constitutional Court dismissed an application by 100 poor inner city residents to give effect to the order it handed down in City of Johannesburg v Blue Moonlight Properties on 1 December 2011. Read the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and SERI press release here and more on the Blue Moonlight case here.
  • Con Court upholds tenants' rights, 13 March 2012. In a ground-breaking judgment in the Maphango case, the Constitutional Court affirmed the rights of tenants to challenge excessive rents and unfair lease terminations. In a majority judgment written by Cameron J, the Court found that that the High Court and SCA failed to give adequate weight to the Rental Housing Act, and that the landlord’s conduct may have amounted to an “unfair practice”. The Rental Housing Tribunal is empowered to determine whether a landlord committed an unfair practice, and it might accordingly have ruled in the tenants’ favour. The applicants are directed to lodge a complaint with the Tribunal before 2 May 2012. Read the SERI press release here and more on the case here.
  • City of Johannesburg set to breach Constitutional Court Order, 8 March 2012. The residents of Saratoga Avenue will return to the Constitutional Court to force the City to obey an order to provide them with temporary housing. The residents fear that the City has made no provision for them and intends to ignore the Constitutional Court’s order in City of Johannesburg v Blue Moonlight Properties, handed down on 1 December 2011. Read the SERI and CALS press release here and more on the case here.
  • eThekwini Municipality disobeys court order to provide housing and investigate corruption, 29 February 2012. SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) today published a press release highlighting the fact that the eThekwini Municipality has disobeyed a court order to provide housing to the 37 occupiers evicted from Siyanda informal settlement in 2009, and removed to the Richmond Farm transit camp. Read the press release here and more about the case here.
  • Constitutional Court holds Minister of Police liable for rape by off-duty police officer, 15 December 2011. In F v Minister of Safety and Security, SERI represented the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in their amicus curiae application. The Constitutional Court declared that the Minister of Police may be liable for criminal acts committed by off-duty police officers, holding that, even though the police officer concerned was off duty, he was able to gain trust because he was a police officer and was using a police vehicle. These factors, closely associated with his appointment as a police officer, made it possible for the police officer to commit the rape. Read more here.
  • uMngeni Municipality ordered to provide housing to residents of Tumbleweed informal settlement, 12 December 2011. The Pietermaritzburg High Court ordered uMngeni Municipality to provide land, water, sanitation and temporary housing to 47 families living in the Tumbleweed informal settlement near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal. The order was granted by agreement between the residents and the municipality, with the assistance of SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo. Read more here.
  • Constitutional Court declares Bapsfontein forced removal unlawful, 6 December 2011. In the Pheko case, in which SERI was admitted as amicus curiae, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Ekurhuleni Municipality’s removal of thousands of people from the Bapsfontein informal settlement was unlawful. The Court also ordered the municipalityto provide land to the evictees “within the immediate vicinity of Bapsfontein”. Read more here.
  • Constitutional Court declares City of Johannesburg’s housing policy unconstitutional, 1 December 2011. In the Blue Moonlight eviction case, the Constitutional Court declared the City of Johannesburg’s housing policy unconstitutional and ordered the City to provide temporary accommodation to 86 desperately poor people living in Berea in inner city Johannesburg. The Court was ruling on the application of Blue Moonlight Properties to evict the occupiers from its property. Read the SERI and CALS press release here and more on the case here.
  • Government must promote the supremacy of the Constitution and the independence of the judiciary, 1 December 2011. SERI together with a number of NGOs and social movements in South Africa have released a joint statement questioning some of the worrying aspects of a recent Cabinet statement calling for an assessment of the judicial system. The statement inter alia calls on Cabinet to clarify its statement and to provide detail as to why an assessment of the Constitutional Court's decisions is now required. Read the joint statement here.
  • Constitutional Court to decide on Minister's liability for police violence, 2 August 2011. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), represented by SERI Law Clinic, was admitted as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case of HRF v Minister of Safety and Security. The case was heard by the Constitutional Court on 4 August 2011. Read the ISS and SERI press release here and more on the case here.
  • "Kennedy 12" acquitted, 18 July 2011. Twelve members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) were prosecuted in the aftermath of the attacks on AbM members residing in the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement in Durban in September 2009. On 18 July 2011, all 12 members were acquitted of all criminal charges in the Durban Regional Court. Read SERI's media release here.
  • Illegally evicted occupiers return to their homes, 7 July 2011. SERI assisted several hundred people return to their homes after they were illegally evicted from a building on corner Kruis and Salisbury streets in Johannesburg’s CBD. The residents had been evicted without a court order by the City of Johannesburg’s Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and fire brigade officials. An urgent hearing was held at the Johannesburg High Court and the occupiers returned to their homes at midnight. Read the SERI press release here.
  • Court declares housing emergency in Johannesburg informal settlement, 19 April 2011. In the Rand Leases case, the Johannesburg High Court declared 200 people living next to a Pikitup waste dump near Roodepoort to be in an emergency housing situation. Judge Victor ordered the City to provide water and sanitation to the Marie Louise informal settlement community by 13 May 2011, and improved shelter by 15 July 2011. Read the SERI statement here.
  • Constitutional Court rules against arbitrary sales of homes , 11 April 2011. The Constitutional Court in the Gundwana case has declared Rule 31 (5) of the Uniform Rules of Court constitutionally invalid to the extent that it permits a High Court registrar to authorise the sale of a person’s home. The judgment means that banks that wish to execute on mortgage bonds must approach a Judge and show why the sale of a person’s home would be justifiable in all the circumstances of a particular case. The judgment is important as it will ensure more fairness in the bond execution process. Read the press release here.
  • Supreme Court upholds the rights of the urban poor in Blue Moonlight judgment, 30 March 2011. In a landmark judgment the SCA has declared the City of Johannesburg's housing policy irrational, discriminatory and unconstitutional, and directed the City to provide temporary emergency accommodation to approximately 100 desperately poor peopleliving in derelict buildings in Berea, Johannesburg by 1 June 2011. The occupiers stand to be evicted by the owner of the property, and would be rendered homeless without assistance from the City. Read the SERI statement here.
  • Statement on municipal billing chaos in the City of Johannesburg, 24 January 2011. SERI issues statement regarding the billing chaos within the City of Johannesburg, following problems with the implementation of its Project Phakama system, and calls for the City to refrain from disconnecting water and electricity services until it has verified all municipal bills. Read the SERI statement here.
  • Full bench of the High Court reverses unlawful eviction in Chung Hua case, 3 December 2010. A full bench of the Johannesburg High Court reversed the unlawful eviction of over 253 desperately poor people from Chung Hua Mansions, a building in Jeppe Street in inner city Johannesburg. The three judges further held the owner, private security company and the Station Commander of Johannesburg Central Police Station in contempt of court. Read the SERI press release here.
  • Legal NGOs respond to recent statements by the Minister of Human Settlements, 2 December 2010. A joint statement endorsed by SERI, SECTION27, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and Community Law Centre (CLC), was issued in response to various statements made by the Minister about the role of courts and civil society in human rights/social justice struggles. Read the statement here.
  • Johannesburg High Court orders Eskom to reconnect electricity supply to Chiawelo Flats, 10 September 2010. Following the illegal disconnection of electricty to 420 flats in Chiawelo, Soweto, the SERI Law Clinic approached the Johannesburg High Court on an urgent basis. The court ordered that Eskom must reconnect the electricity to the flats. Read the SERI media release here.
  • Court orders City of Johannesburg and JMPD to reconstruct the homes of unlawfully evicted residents in Kliptown, Soweto, 8 July 2010. Following the filing of an urgent application in the Johannesburg High Court by SERI on 30 June 2010, the court directed that the 8 residents unlawfully evicted from their homes in Freedom Charter informal settlement, Kliptown be provided with shelter on the same site they had previously occupied at the City’s cost. Read the SERI media release here.

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