SERI represents 29 market traders trading near the Mogwase Shopping Complex in Mogwase in the North West threatened with eviction from the space in which they conduct their business and use to earn a living.
Transnet approached the High Court in Mafikeng seeking an order to evict the market traders alleging that they are trading on land currently owned by the Republic of South Africa which will soon be transferred and registered to Transnet. Transnet alleges that the traders are trading on their property, close to a railway line, which poses a safety risk for the traders. Transnet further states that they have engaged with the municipality in order to resolve the situation but the municipality has not been responsive.
On 4 April 2019, SERI, on behalf of the market traders, filed heads of arguments with the Mahikeng High Court arguing that:
1) Transnet does not own the land on which the market traders are operating;
2) The traders’ activities are not illegal and are recognised and protected in terms of the Businesses Act 71 of 1991;
3) The traders do not operate on or near a railway line but between the shopping complex and housing estate and are not enticing people to cross railway lines to access their stalls; and,
4) The traders have been trading on the land for almost 20 years, not four.
The case will be heard in 2019.
Read more about the case here.
On Sunday, 31 March, the City Press published an op-ed by SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako which challenged some of the common misconceptions around protest activity in South Africa and unpacked some of the reasons behind skewed public perceptions of protest. The op-ed also considers the important role that protest has played in our 25 year democracy and draws attention to the disproportionate amount of force that they are usually met with.
Masiangoako argues that “we need to shift our perceptions of protest and begin to understand it in the context of profound inequalities and extreme levels of poverty. Without this, we run the risk of dismissing the ways in which government is failing the poor and marginalised.”
Read the full op-ed here.
From the 21st– 24thof March 2019, SERI participated in the second annual Human Rights Festival hosted by Constitutional Hill. The event aimed to celebrate the freedoms available to individuals and groups under our constitutional democracy. The festival also emphasised the diverse array of hurdles which still prevent communities from enjoying the sanctity of these rights on a daily basis.
As part of SERI’s participation in the festival our researchers, Tiffany Ebrahim and Thato Masiangoako contributed a short reflection on South Africa’s socio-economic progress since 1994 on Constitution Hill’s blog. Ebrahim and Masiangoako argue that while South Africa’s constitutional democracy has made considerable gains in 25 years, the nature of poverty and inequality has become increasingly intersectional. This means that the nature of disadvantage should consider race, gender, age, physical disability and physical location as factors that further exclude people from the realisation of human rights such as housing and other basic services. In informal settlements, where around 3.6-million people live, secure tenure and access to dignified services remain significant challenges. Despite South Africa’s progressive legal and policy framework, government efforts and resources continue to impose mass evictions, displacement and relocations of residents. Poor policy implementation, under-spent budgets and a lack of political will have severely frustrated efforts to secure socio-economic rights in South Africa. The reality is a lot worse for society’s most vulnerable groups, particularly in housing and basic services for women living with disabilities.
Read SERI’s blog post for the festival here.
On Wednesday, 20 March 2019, SERI’s Alana Potter shared a thought piece on ‘container-based sanitation and urban inequality’ in a seminar hosted by Cranfield University’s Water Science Institute in London. Her input asked whether container-based sanitation ameliorates tenure challenges as claimed by its proponents, or could in fact entrench tenure-related inequalities.
Container-based sanitation (CBS) solutions are gaining popularity because they provide a household (rather than shared), off grid, sanitation option with the potential to facilitate circular economies and reduce public health risks compared to unsealed pit latrines. CBS’s are also seen as a sanitation solution for ‘transient populations’ such as informal settlements. Alana’s input questioned the idea that informal settlements are intrinsically transient. Sixty percent of informal settlements in Cape Town and Gauteng have been in place for 5-10 years. Transience is arguably more likely the result of forced evictions and urban displacement, evident in most countries where the technology has been piloted. She noted that the flexibility this technical option offers governments could contribute to tenure insecurity, which impacts negatively on the livelihoods of the urban poor.
Referencing SERI’s informal settlement action research findings and media articles she highlighted the dignity and tenure security related concerns of users of portable flush toilets (PFTs) in informal settlements in Cape Town. “At the very least, CBS may enable urban planners and policy makers to avoid asking the hard questions about the tenure security of informal settlement residents”. She cautioned technology developers to be aware that, despite their many advantages, temporary or mobile sanitation options have the potential to serve a purpose which is evident in most countries; that of displacement of poor people from urban economic centers.