On Monday, 1 March 2021, a cohort of 107 waste reclaimers will appear before the High Court in Johannesburg to oppose eviction from their homes. The property is undeveloped land located between a residential complex and a business park in Midrand, Johannesburg. The applicant is Rycloff-Beleggings (Pty) Ltd, the registered title-holder of the property. The occupiers are informal reclaimers who have been residing on the property for at least five years. In addition to living on the property, access to the land has enabled them to eke out a living by sorting and storing their recyclable materials on site.
The occupiers make a living collecting, sorting, recycling, and selling valuable materials disposed of as waste. As waste reclaimers, they are an important part of South Africa’s waste management system. According to a 2016 briefing note by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in 2014 more than 80% of the 52.6% recycling rate for paper and packaging was recovered through the informal sector. Furthermore, reclaimers were estimated to have saved municipalities between R309.2 – R748.8 million in landfill airspace. Through their own means, the reclaimers have secured their access to housing and work.
This eviction concerns the right to housing which, in this case, is interlinked with the right to work and hence the right to dignity. If evicted the occupiers would not only lose their homes, but their ability to earn a living would also be impacted. On Monday, the occupiers will argue that allowing for an eviction order in the absence of the provision of alternative accommodation suitable for the reclaimers’ work, amounts to a violation of a range of their constitutionally and internationally protected human rights. In identifying an alternative accommodation site, the municipality should take into consideration the need of the reclaimers to sort and store their recyclable materials. In addition, the site should be within reach of medium-income households who produce high-value waste.
Khululiwe Bhengu, SERI attorney representing the residents said: “This eviction application not only threatens the reclaimers’ access to housing but also their ability to put food on the table. We hope that when this matter is finalised the reclaimers will have a home that accommodates their right to work and dignity.”
 Godfrey, L., Strydom, W. & Phukubye , R. 2016. Integrating the Informal Sector into the south African Waste and Recycling Economy in the context of extended producer responsibility. Briefing Note February 2016. CSIR Policy Brief and Briefing Note Series.