On Thursday, 29 August 2019, SERI’s Lauren Royston presented at an Upgrading Informal Settlements Policy/Programme Reform workshop hosted by the Department of Human Settlements at the OR Tambo Garden Court hotel in Johannesburg. The 50 workshop participants included representatives from the National Department of Human Settlements, the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), architects, practitioners, NGOs, and community organisations.

The workshop was organised to review the current status of Upgrading Informal Settlement Programme (UISP) implementation and the proposal for the development of an UISP Grant which will consist of funding ring-fenced from the Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) and Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) exclusively for informal settlement upgrading.

Royston presented on SERI research publications completed in Marikana informal settlement, Ratanang informal settlement and Siyanda informal settlement which aim to shed light on the more plausible measures that can be taken in order to improve the ways in which informal settlement upgrading is carried out.

She highlighted the key recommendations gleaned from the reports including:

  • Recognising existing norms and practices;
  • Prioritising basic services provision;
  • Attend to non-material needs in participative upgrading processes; and,
  • Build constructive relations with residents.

Royston also discussed tenure security in informal settlement upgrading in the context of urban land reform.

The DHS will produce a draft policy note to guide the UISP Grant in the next year.



  • Download the report on the Ratanang informal settlement here.
  • Download the report on the Marikana informal settlement here.
  • Download the report on the Siyanda informal settlement here.
  • Download the synthesis report here.

ISAR publications


Kele and Amy BusinessDay OP ED


On Saturday, 24 August 2018, the Business Day published a co-written article by Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance’s Amy Tekie and SERI’s Kelebogile Khunou on the plight of domestic workers and farm workers in South Africa. The op-ed makes an argument for farm workers and domestic workers to be paid the minimum wage and further helps employers understand the difference between a minimum and a living wage. 

“Farm workers and domestic workers are widely recognised as two of the most vulnerable occupational groups in the country. Despite attempts by the South African government to provide legal protections, little has changed for many farm and domestic workers who work in intolerable conditions with low wages and no formal terms of employment”, they write. 

This Women’s Month, a coalition of civil society organisations and labour unions introduced the One Wage Campaign, calling for the inclusion of farm workers, domestic workers and Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) employees in the R20 per hour minimum wage. The op-ed also draws attention to this campaign.  

To learn more about alivingwage, see Open Up’s Living Wage Calculator. Designed in conversation with domestic workers, it breaks down the costs of basic needs of domestic workers and their families and suggests to employers a fair wage.


  • Read the full article here
  • Learn more about the One Wage Campaign here
  • Learn more about a living wage here

women with disabilities and informal settlement sanitation policy briefOn 16 August 2019, SERI released a policy brief entitled ‘Women with Disabilities and Informal Settlement Sanitation: Implications for Policy and Practice’. The policy brief was developed as a resource that would accompany the documentary, ‘The Struggle to be Ordinary’. The purpose of the policy brief and documentary are to raise awareness and build knowledge; it was to influence change in our attitudes, our thinking, our policies and our practices, as practitioners, as government officials, as decision-makers, budget holders, urban planners, activists, and most importantly, as people.

The policy brief provides an outline of the legislative and policy framework pertaining to water and sanitation provision to people with disabilities living in informal settlements covering international law and local legislation and policy. It then provides an overview of the state of sanitation in informal settlements and then goes on the set out the challenges that women with disabilities living in informal settlements face in terms of accessing adequate sanitation.

One of the biggest challenges with sanitation in informal settlements is that municipalities often only provide temporary or emergency services which are not intended to be used for longer than six months. This is largely because the upgrading of informal settlements is not being implemented. Currently, the water and sanitation services provided in informal settlements are not easily accessible especially for women and girls with disabilities because they are poorly located, often the outskirts of informal settlements. These sanitation facilities are also rendered inaccessible because:

[They] often lack space to accommodate a wheelchair, an assistive device or caregiver and also lack the ramped access and support structures such as toilet seats and handrails. The lack of required space and other necessary requirements compromises the rights to dignity and privacy of people with disabilities living in informal settlements.

view of Slovo

In light of these observations, the policy brief proposes two key actions:

Housing and sanitation legislation and policies need to be revised to align with international human rights instruments especially the principles of accessibility and reasonable accommodation as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and;

The Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) and the Emergency Housing Programme must be implemented in line with the accessibility and reasonable accommodation standards of the UNCRPD.


  • Download the policy brief here.
  • View the documentary here.



Lydia Mandela FlagOn 16 August 2019, SERI partnered with the South African Cities Network (SACN), the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP), and Constitution Hill to launch a short documentary on sanitation for women with disabilities living in informal settlements entitled, ‘The Struggle to be Ordinary’. This documentary was commissioned by the Ford Foundation and was produced together with twospinningwheels productions and the Pegasys Institute. The film raises awareness of the intersection of gender, disability and basic services in informal settlements in South Africa.

StbO Launch Alana2The launch was attended by members of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), residents of the Harry Gwala Informal Settlement, national government officials representing departments of Social Development, Tourism, Human Settlements, city officals from the Cities of Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, representatives from Joburg Water and members of civil society from NGOs and other practitioners.

SERI’s director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, introduced the documentary by foregrounding some of the important statistics that reflect the lives of women with disabilities and their struggles to adequate sanitation services:

Households headed by people with disabilities are 5% more likely to lack access to improved sanitation facilities or piped water than the general population. The 2011 Census found that just less than half (45,2%) of households headed by persons with disabilities had access to a flush toilets and more than a third (37,1%) used pit toilets.

The screening of the documentary was followed by an open panel discussion. Panellists included David Morema (NUSP), Shelley Barry (twospinningwheels), Susan Mkhwanazi (SPCDF and the women’s forum), and Dr Phyllis Dannhauser (University of Johannesburg). The discussion was facilitated by Rehana Moosajee (The Barefoot Facilitator).

The discussion began by looking at the significance of the film. Susan Mkhwanazi reiterated the challenges faced by women in Slovo Park but noted that they too did not have a full understanding of how fellow residents with disabilities experience these same challenges. The film shed some light on their plight and helped to amply the voices of women with or directly affected by disabilities in Slovo Park.

StbO Launch Shelley Rehana Susan

Tim Fish Hodgeson from the International Community of Jurists lamented South Africa’s ableist culture that permeates society in that “almost all social services are deprived of people with disabilities, up to 600 000 children with disabilities are not in school today and less than 1% of people with disabilities are employed.” He argued that a lot more could be done to meet the needs of people with disabilities but an honest acceptance of South Africa’s ableist culture would need to be a starting point.

Lydia Lenyatsa, one of the women whose stories make up the documentary, highlighted the economic and life-threatening impact that poor access to sanitation and other basic services in informal settlements has had on her life:

I need a ventilator to breath. There's no electricity. They gave me a cylinder to last a month but if it runs out I could lose my life and I need to be there for my kids, so I had to connect to illegal electricity. It would cost me R500 a month.

The key message to come out of both the film and discussions is the urgent need for government to upgrade informal settlements in situ by making every effort to engage disabled people, particularly disabled women, in making decisions that directly impact their lives.  

The documentary was developed as an advocacy tool which social justice organisations can use to press for universal access to safe, dignified sanitation and the concomitant advancement of the human rights of women and girls with disabilities. SERI’s hope is for the documentary to raise awareness, build knowledge and to influence a change in our attitudes, thinking, policies and practices. 

The documentary is accompanied by a policy brief which sets out the implications for policy and the legal framework that governs over access to sanitation for women with disabilities living in informal settlements.

  • View the documentary here.
  • Download the policy brief here.

Marikana Commeration Press 

Commemorating the 7th anniversary of the Marikana massacre 

Friday, 16 August 2019 will mark the 7th anniversary of the Marikana massacre. 

The mineworkers and their families have yet to see real justice. Only eight police officers, including Major General William Mpembe, in his capacity as former North West deputy police commissioner, have been charged for crimes related to the massacre. The eight have been charged for the deaths of three striking mineworkers and two police officers who were killed on 13 August 2012 and for failing to disclose a death in police custody and for lying to the Farlam Commission. 

Thirty-four mineworkers were shot and killed on 16 August 2012. The police oversight body, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), determined that all of these deaths were caused by police actions. Despite being in possession of dockets since 2017, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has, as yet, failed to prosecute anyone for the deaths on 16 August 2012. 

The Marikana Support Campaign, Right2Protest Project, Right2Know and SERI have partnered to commemorate the massacre and to demand justice for the families of the miners by hosting a march to the Mankwe Magistrates Court in Mogwase on Monday 12 August 2019 at 9:00 am

The purpose of the demonstration will be to: 

1)raise awareness about the trial of Major General William Mpembe and his co-accused.General Mpembe is currently the head of security at Tharisa mine and continues toundermine the rights of protestors, including through the use of strategic law suit againstpublic particitipation (SLAPP suits);

2)call for the prosecution of officers implicated in crimes committed on 16 August 2012; and,

3)call for the release of the Expert Panel Report on Public Order Policing recommended bythe Marikana Commission policing to investigate training, equipment, regulations andglobal best practice in managing both peaceful and non-peaceful gatherings, andavoiding the use of force unless strictly necessary and proportionate to the threat posed.The report as completed and submitted to the current Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, inApril 2018, but has yet to be released to the public.


Contact details: 

  • Rehad Desai, Marikana Support Campaign:083 997 9204 
  • Thami Nkosi, R2K:062 624 5992 
  • Busisiwe Zasekhaya, Right2Protest:081 583 8888 
  • Nomzamo Zondo, SERI:071 301 9676


  • Read the full statement here
  • Read the full statement by the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) here.

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