"The world has come to accept the unacceptable. It is a human rights imperative that informal settlements be upgraded to meet the basic standards of human dignity." Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing.
SERI’s Alana Potter and the Social Justice Coalition’s Axolile Notywala co-convened a session on informal settlement sanitation in the sub-theme “Sanitation and the SDGs - Leave No One Behind” on 19 February 2019. They joined the approximately 1,300 mostly international NGOs, donors, academics and practitioners who participated in AfricaSan, which was co-hosted for the first time by the fifth Faecal Sludge Management Conference.
AfricaSan has grown from a conference to a movement that blends political, technical and knowledge exchange streams. From its inception in 2002 linked to the formation of the African Ministers’ Council for Water (AMCOW) during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) with just 13 ministers present, AfricaSan now includes political representatives from more than 60 African countries. AfricaSan continues to set and learn from progress (or lack of progress) against regional and national sanitation and hygiene commitments; to generate evidence to prioritise and invest in sanitation and hygiene, and develop strategies to improve sector performance.
The first commitment in the N’gor Declaration, signed by African Ministers at AfricaSan IV in Dakar Senegal in 2015 states: “Focus on the poorest, most marginalised and unserved aimed at progressively eliminating inequalities in access and use and implement national and local strategies with an emphasis on equity and sustainability”.
The commitment to not only ‘leave no one behind’ but to actively prioritise sanitation services in order to eliminate inequalities, is one of least progress across countries. SDG and N’gor monitoring shows marked inequality in sanitation provision across African countries. As demonstrated by WASHCost research in five countries over five years, the poor pay more for poorer quality WASH services across the world.
SERI shared findings from informal settlement action research in Marikana (Cape Town), Ratanang (Klerksdorp) and Siyanda (eThekwini) to be launched in Johannesburg in April 2019. SJC discussed their campaign for dignified sanitation services in informal settlements in Cape Town, noting clearly that 66% of informal settlement latrines are temporary, pose safety risks, are culturally and socially inappropriate and are neither private nor dignified. In Khayelitsha, 83% of informal settlements were established over 15 years ago.
SERI also facilitated a session for the World Health Organisation (WHO) UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-water (GLAAS) on Effective National Sanitation Policies: Learning from Five Countries. SERI’s sub-theme focused on issues to be resolved in sanitation policies in order to enable equitable access to services. Outcomes will be fed into sanitation policy guidelines be published by the African Ministers Council for Water (AMCOW).
10 Key messages:
On Thursday, 21 February 2019, SERI director of litigation, Nomzamo Zondo, participated as a panelist at the latest Juta Talking Points panel discussion entitled ‘Perspectives on Land Expropriation: Elevating the Debate’, held in Johannesburg.
Zondo was joined by Prof Elmien du Plessis, Ronald Lamola, Mzukisi Kota and Hajra Omarjee as the panel chair. In her talk, Zondo cautioned against the expropriation process being captured by the elite and politically connected. She argued that the process needs to be activated by the people on the ground who required access to the land – be they private individuals or communities. She further argued that the same process needed to be followed whether the disputed land was state owned or privately owned. ‘Power must revert to the people who need the land. It cannot be left to the state,’ she said.
Watch the full video here.
SERI would also like to express its gratitude to Juta for the donation of 26 legal books to the SERI library.
On Thursday, 13 February, SERI was invited by the Informal Settlements Network (ISN) to give a presentation on housing and evictions law in South Africa. The meeting, hosted in the Kliptown Informal Settlement, was attended by 20 ISN members and leaders of informal settlements in Gauteng and formed part of the ISN’s annual strategic meeting and community engagement.
SERI presented on resisting evictions and legal principles contained in the Constitution. The presentation provided participants with insight on how to use the Constitution and legislation such as the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 ("PIE Act") to challenge illegal evictions. The presentation was offered by SERI research and advocacy officer, Edward Molopi.
On 20 February 2019, SERI published a new short film on South Africa’s advocates for change. The film showcases the critical role played by human rights lawyers in South Africa and the importance of training highly skilled public interest lawyers to keep the promise of our constitutional democracy.
It features SERI’s annual advocacy training programme, which has been operated annually for four years. The programme is a partnership between the Bertha Foundation, SERI and City University, London to provide quality training in court advocacy to young human rights lawyers in South Africa free of charge.
The training programme is a unique and critically important practical skills programme that supplies South African public interest legal practitioners with essential courtroom skills to enable them to provide better legal representation to the very poor and vulnerable people they work with across a wide range of different human rights work. In this way, SERI, the Bertha Foundation and City, University of London hope to contribute to the development and strengthening of well-trained, professional advocates working on public interest law.
Together they are carrying forward the struggle for justice, helping people to assert their dignity no matter what their circumstances.
The film was produced by Ilya Melnikov, a film student at City University, London; and directed by Nikki Walsh, a senior lecturer at City University, London
On Tuesday, 19 February 2019, SERI argued an application in the Constitutional Court, on behalf of General Alfred Moyo, to have section 1(1)(b) of The Intimidation Act72 of 1982 declared unconstitutional.
The case emanates from a criminal charge laid against General Moyo after an attempt by him and other residents of the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo), a community-based organisation in Makause informal settlement, to hold a march protesting against police brutality in Primrose, Germiston in 2012.
SERI, on behalf of General Moyo, have consistently argued that section 1(1)(b) of The Intimidation Act 72 of 1982 is unconstitutional as it criminalises any speech or conduct which creates a state of fear in the person towards whom the speech or conduct is directed. This drastically limits the right to freedom of expression found in s16 of the Constitution.
The matter was heard on appeal from the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) which declared s1 (2) of the Act invalid, but held that s1(1)(b) was constitutionally compliant.
SERI argued that the purpose of the provision has been consistently misinterpreted by the courts which, incorrectly limited the right to freedom of expression. One of the issues recognised by the SCA was the broad language used in s1(1)(b). It believed to have remedied this issue by narrowing the interpretation of the section by “reading in” the fact that for a sense of fear to be actionable under s1(1)(b) it had to be imminent. However, SERI argued that the breadth of the language in the provision caters to a whole range of potential fears to an individual, their property, livelihoods and to third parties. If the section was limited in this way it would, in many justified situations, render the provision powerless.
SERI also argued that the section was being applied to situations which were not intended by the legislature. It was submitted, that the way in which the SCA interpreted s1(1)(b) went beyond the scope originally intended by the legislature. The SCA advocated for the broad definition of the section on the basis that it allowed the protection of s1(1)(b) to be extended to crimes such as cyber-bullying, stalking and harassment. SERI argued that not only are these offences protected by other pieces of legislation but also that stretching the section in this way defeated its purpose and again, unjustly limits the right to freedom of expression.
The pending outcome of the judgement will serve to clarify whether s1(1)(b) will continue to be considered constitutionally valid. This brings into question whether or not a person can be arrested and criminally charged for speech or publication which induces fear in another, for their own safety or the safety of their property or that of a third party.