MILE picSERI’s informal settlement action research confirms that despite the challenges, eThekwini’s Communal Ablution Blocks (CABs) provide a higher level of sanitation service to informal settlement residents than options such as chemical toilets, portable flush toilets and others provided by other municipalities.

On 24 and 25 October, approximately 50 municipal officials from various departments including human settlements, water and sanitation, emergency services, environmental health and roads; academics from UKZN; civil society organisations such as SERI and social movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo and SA-SDI participated in a knowledge exchange session on Sanitation Services in Dense Informal Settlements convened by eThekwini’s Municipal Learning Institute (MILE). 

Alana Potter SERI’s director of research and advocacy, together with ma-Mkhize Nxumalo from Siyanda where Abahlali base Mjondolo partnered with SERI, shared findings and implications from the research on local norms, agency and practices with respect to land use management and tenure, participation, access to basic services and livelihoods.

The purpose of the exchange was to reflect on options and models for sanitation services. CABs were built in B1 and B2 informal settlements in the late 2000’s. CABs have many advantages: They meet basic service level standards; they are electrified reducing safety risks; they dispose of greywater reducing health risks and they mitigate many of the problems of shared sanitation through a caretaker model. Importantly CABs are connected to the municipal grid, which sends a positive tenure security and upgrading message to residents. 

CABs however come at high capital and operational cost, and the City’s bulk sewer infrastructure is overloaded. Women, the elderly, disabled and residents living further from the facilities report lower satisfaction with the CABs, and the selection of caretakers is a delicate issue.

Like anyone else, informal settlement residents want affordable household connections and take action to connect at significant personal risk and financial cost in order to step into the gaps where government doesn’t provide adequate services in order to safeguard their dignity, privacy and security and in order to generate a livelihood. 

In their presentations, Enoc Mudau from Johannesburg Water and Llast Mudondo from the City of Cape Town cited a reluctance to develop municipal infrastructure on privately owned land and the slow pace of incremental upgrading processes as reasons they could not provide individual household connections.

With respect to water services on privately owned land: according to legal opinion commissioned by Project Preparation Trust, municipalities have the right and the obligation to provide services on land that they do not own and they need to do so in a structured and planned manner by: including their plans in their Spatial Development Frameworks; giving notice to and taking comments from land owners, and promulgating enabling bylaws. PPT committed to sharing a briefing note on this.  



Zandile Nsibande from Abahlali base Mjondolo said: “The City of Joburg needs to take a leaf from eThekwini. Those VIPs and those green toilets everywhere are not dignified. Ive been to Slovo Park and when they are not emptied, they stink. Lots of money is spent but nothing is done for people living in informal settlements. Work with organisations like SERI.”

To the City of Cape Town official, she said “SERI’s research shows that people don’t have basic services. When people took toilets to the airports they were being strategic and they were showing their anger because the City didn’t provide dignified services. I thought after all that you would be showing us improvements but I see nothing much has been done”.

City officials referred to new criteria for accessing upgrading funding as a constraint. The Upgrading Informal Settlements Grant in the USDG window requires a Business Plan per settlement which has delayed upgrading in Johannesburg this year. “R 395 million was allocated but won’t be able to spend it this year” said Enoc Mudau. Mark Misselhorn from Project Preparation Trust (PPT) noted similar challenges encountered in eThekwini.

Social movements, academics and civil society organisations sent a clear message: Municipalities need to build constructive relationships with residents, they need to actively understand and build on existing local norms, livelihoods strategies and practices in the participative upgrading process. In the meantime they need to secure residential status and provide at least interim basic services.

As ma-Mkhize Nxumalo said “Ive been living in Siyanda for 31 years. I live there because I have a strong network and it is a good place to make a living. Local government is a long distance from people living in informal settlements. In 2010 I was there when the CABs arrived. The community blamed me and asked me why I am bringing toilets instead of houses. Municipalities, why don’t you talk with us first? It is better here that we talk with officials and they give us time to listen. That is what ward committees were meant for. They would not fail if they engaged us. The problem is the land. Make us secure on the land and we will build.” 


  • Read more about the workshop and access all the material here.

Thato Op Ed 23 OCTOn Wednesday, 23 October 2019, The Daily Maverick published an op-ed by SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako about the recent allegations by Viewfinder against the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). The op-ed considers the allegations against IPID and its initial responses to those allegations when it presented its annual report to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police on Thursday, 11 October 2019. IPID is accused of prematurely closing cases without proper investigation in order to inflate its performance statistics.

Masiangoako argues that: "such systemic dereliction leaves victims of crimes committed by police officials with no justice or closure. If the South African Police Services (SAPS) is to be meaningfully reformed then IPID and related bodies such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) need to be supported."

She goes on to argue that these allegations "not only expose institutional malpractice but also shed light on how the broader structure in which IPID operates reflects a lack of regard for police accountability and reform, even after Marikana." 

Despite IPID's investigation, the NPA has only prosecuted nine police officers and 16 mineworkers in connection to the deaths that occurred on 12 August 2012, in the lead up to the Marikana Massacre. They are yet to prosecute for the deaths that took place on 16 August 2012. 

  • Read the full op-ed here.
  • To learn more about holding the police accountable, read a workshop report on Police Accountability here.
  • Read the executive summary of the workshop report here.

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 On 22 October 2019, the Constitutional Court, in a unanimous judgment by Ledwaba AJ, declared sections 1 (2) and 1 (1) (b) of the Intimidation Act 72 of 1982 unconstitutional.

This case emanates from a criminal charge laid against Moyo and two other activists from the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo), a community-based organisation in Makause informal settlement, following attempts by him and other residents to hold a march against police brutality in Primrose, Germiston in 2012. He was charged with “intimidating” the Station Commander of the Primrose Police Station in Germiston, in terms of section 1(1)(b) of the Intimidation Act 72 of 1982. Moyo, with the assistance of SERI, argued that sections 1(1)(b) and 1(2) of the Intimidation Act had the effect of criminalising a wide range of expression protected by the right of freedom of expression.

Moyo’s case was consolidated with that of Nokulunga Primrose Sonti, who was similarly charged section 1(1)(a)(ii) and 1(1)(b)(i) of the Act and represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS).

The Constitutional Court concurred with SERI’s argument that section 1(1)(b) was unconstitutional in that it unjustifiably limited the right to freedom of expression. The Constitutional Court further found that the SCA erroneously applied an interpretation to section 1(1)(b) that it cannot reasonably sustain and impermissibly strained its meaning.The Constitutional Court also confirmed a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) order declaring section 1(2) of the Intimidation Act as unconstitutional. ConCourt small


  • Download the press statement here.
  • Read the judgment here.
  • Read more about the case here.
  • Read Moyo's heads of argument in the Constitutional Court (19 October 2018) here.



ISAR ethekwini picOn Monday, 21 October 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) in partnership with Abahlali BaseMjondolo hosted the eThekwini launch of four research publications on informal settlements in South Africa. The reports emanate from SERI’s research series entitled “Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency”.

The three site-based research reports are on Siyanda informal settlement in KwaMashu (eThekwini Municipality) which was produced in partnership with Abahlali BaseMjondolo and will be foregrounded in this launch; Ratanang informal settlement in Klerksdorp (City of Matlosana); Marikana informal settlement in Philippi (City of Cape Town); and a fourth Synthesis Report that pulls together findings in each of the themes (tenure security and land use management; political space; access to basic services and economic life) across the three sites. 

Informal settlements have been part of the South African urban landscape for decades. The Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) provides a strong policy framework for improving the lives of informal settlement residents. There are however few if any examples where municipalities have upgraded informal settlements in keeping with the policy. This research provides qualitative, evidence-based insights to assist government officials, practitioners, planners and community members to strengthen the implementation of in-situ upgrading.

According to Stuart Wilson, executive director of SERI: “The persistence of informal settlements in South Africa is a painful reminder of the state’s failure and the market’s inability to provide poor households with affordable accommodation options in well-located areas. These reports provide a deep insight to informal settlements in South Africa. We hope that these reports will assist in developing a better approach towards informal settlement upgrading in South Africa.”

The launch took place at the Diakonia Centre, 20 Diakonia Ave, Durban Central, Durban­­­­­. 

Read the full press statement here.


Long CO RightToWorkOn 9 October 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), alongside the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), hosted a workshop on the Right to Work in Johannesburg. The event was attended by approximately 40 members of precarious worker organisations, local and national government officials, practitioners, academics and civil society organisations. 

In October 2018, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) issued its Concluding Observations to the Government of South Africa’s first report to the Committee since it ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICECSR) in 2015. The purpose of the workshop was to provide an orientation on the right to decent work and to the Committee’s Concluding Observations and to discuss how the recommendations can be implemented and used to further our different advocacy strategies of the various stakeholder groups present.

The workshop began with a presentation by the ICJ’s Tim Fish Hodgson on the Committee’s Concluding Observations on the rights to work and to an adequate standard of living. He highlighted the important role of international law as a value add to national labour legislation, where the express right to work is absent. University of Cape Town’s Jan Theron followed with a presentation on the challenges in translating these international recommendations into reality, highlighting that the current legislative framework covers and protects full-time employees in standard jobs while workers in non-standard jobs have partial protections and that those in the informal economy have even fewer protections and are usually unable to exercise fundamental worker rights such as the right to collective bargaining.

The session which followed consisted of three panel discussions. In the first panel, Steven Leeu of African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) spoke about their struggle for recognition as workers and in terms of their contribution to the recycling industry in the country. In the second panel, members of Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance spoke about their efforts organising domestic workers at the neighbourhood level and their fight as part of the One Wage Campaign for farmworkers, domestic workers and EPWP employees to be included in the R20 per hour minimum wage. In the last panel, Charles Parkerson from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) spoke about their forthcoming informal economy position paper, which aims to guide South Africa’s 257 municipalities’ regulation and support of the informal economy. Brian Phaaloh of South African Informal Trader Forum (SAITF), Jane Barrett from Women in Informal  Employment: Globalizing and Organising (WIEGO), Lulama Mali from Johannesburg Informal Trader Platform (JITP), Kelebogile Khunou from SERI and Caroline Skinner from WIEGO participated as discussants.

Participants of the workshop reached consensus on the following points, which were summarised at the close of the workshop:

  • The importance of maintaining solidarity between organised labour and precarious workers in achieving the right to work.
  • The importance of increasing awareness around the right the work, the importance of different stakeholders in reaching strategic agreement on how to utilise ICESCR and the Concluding Observations for advocacy on the right to work and the effective implementation of the CESCR recommendations and;
  • The need to consider the contributions strategic litigation can make in realising the right to work.

RightToWork Workshop


  • Download the UNCESCR's Concluding Observations on the Right to Work here.
  • Download a summary of the UNCESCR's Concluding Observations on the Right to Work here.
  • Learn more about a living wage here

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