On 28 and 29 September 2017, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) hosts its third annual Policing and Social Justice Dialogue Series in Khayelitsha. The event aims to bring together a wide array of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community-based organisations (CBOs), communities and individuals to discuss some of the most prominent issues facing poor and working class people. Some of the topics set to be discussed include policing, the state-capture of the security cluster, gang violence, land justice, housing rights and evictions.
SERI's executive director, Stuart Wilson, will attend the event and deliver a presentation on the court victory of the residents of the Marikana informal settlement in the Fischer case on the second day of the dialogues. Other speakers include Zwelinzima Vavi (secretary general of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)) and Donna Evans (research and advocacy officer at Sonke Gender Jusice).
The Durban High Court handed down judgment in a damages claim against the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality and the Minister of Safety and Security by Nkosinathi Mngomezulu, a resident of Cato Crest informal settlement in Durban, on 20 August 2017. Mngomezulu is claiming damages for the physical injuries he sustained when a security officer in the municipality's land invasion unit shot him in the stomach four times, as well as for the unlawful destruction of his shack and his unlawful attest and detention on charges of assault and attempted murder. The claims are based on the municipality's land invasion unit's illegal demolition of Mngomezulu and various other Cato Crest residents' shacks in September 2013. At the time, a series of court orders restrained the municipality from evicting any person or demolishing any shack at Cato Crest informal settlement (see the Mzimela case). While physically resisting this demolition, Mngomezulu was shot four times by a security officer in the municipality's land invasion unit. Then, after recovering for more than three months in hospital, Mngomezulu was arrested and detained initially on charges of assault and later on charges of atttempted murder.
In the judgment, Judge Pillay upheld Mngomezulu's claim for unlawful arrest and detention, ordering the Minister of Safety and Security to compensate Mngomezulu for the infringement of his rights. However, the court dimissed Mngomezulu's claims for personal injury and the unlawful destruction of his shack. The court dismissed Mngomezulu's claim for the personal injuries he sustained on the basis that Mngomezulu had "violated the rule of law" when he tried to prevent the municipality's land invasion unit from illegally evicting himself and the other residents of Cato Crest. According to Judge Pillay, this meant that the security officer was acting in self-defence when he shot Mngomezulu in the stomach four times. The court made this finding despite the fact that it recognised that the land invasion unit was acting unlawfully when it carried out evictions and demolitions at the settlement. The court dismissed Mngomezulu's claim for the destruction of his shack because he could not provide a precise address for it. For the court, this meant Mngomezulu must have been lying about having a shack in the informal settlement.
On 20 September 2017, SERI, on behalf of Mngomezulu, filed an application for leave to appeal Judge Pillay's decision. In this application, SERI argues that the court's finding that an informal settlement resident does not have a home in an informal settlement because he or she cannot give a precise address is naive to the realities faced by poor and vulnerable people in South Africa, and that the court's finding that Mngomezulu “violated the rule of law” by defending himself against an illegal eviction cannot be legally supported.
On 21 September 2017, SERI partnered with the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) to host a workshop on the law governing evictions from farmland and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 (ESTA) at SERI's office in Johannesburg. The workshop is based on SERI's recent user-friendly resource guide that explains the rights of farm dwellers and the law in relation to evictions from farmland in terms of ESTA. The workshop included approximately 20 participants, including farm worker union representative, community-based paralegals and lawyers from across the country.
A core aim of the workshop is to enable the participants to gain a fuller awareness of the legal framework governing evictions from farms and encourage participants to pass this knowledge on to the farm dwellers that they work with who are at risk of being evicted. The workshops also offers farm dweller communities throughout the country an opportunity to interact with one another, exchange information and develop collaborative strategies in relation to farm evictions.
SERI will attend a two-day Summit organised by the National Human Settlements Department from 21 to 22 September 2017. The Summit aims to critically assess the South African human settlements and urban development context and reflect on how stakeholders will work, collectively, to build our future today and ensure liveable spaces for every family.
As part of the programme, the Summit will be composed of 5 thematic commissions, to present, exchange and debate proposals. In the commissions, the facilitators will ensure active engagement, in a workshop style, with a rapporteur capturing the proposals. These proposals will then be captured as a draft South African implementation plan for the New Urban Agenda to be presented back to plenary on 22 September. The Commissions are arranged as follows:
Commission 1: Scenarios for Human Settlements Policy and programme choices
Commission 2: Spatial Targeting and inter-governmental planning alignment
Commission 3: Integrated Urban Development and implementing the New Urban Agenda: Local action for inclusive urban and rural management
Commission 4: Up-scaling innovation and transformative technologies – building smart communities
Commission 5: Re-imagining finance for housing and human settlements development
The workshop organised by ProBono.Org sought to address issues relating to family property and inheritance. The presentations provided a historical perspective to the various legislation and polices that were enacted and gave rise to the term ‘Family House.’ The presentations further interrogated the current usage of the term and the attitude of the court when dealing with matters relating to the ‘Family House’ and the vulnerability of women who are being evicted. Drawing from her recent book, “Untitled”, Lauren’s presentation provided insight on reform and possible mechanisms that can be employed to address the issue of insecure tenure.