On 5 July 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) launched four new research publications at our offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The research publications make up SERI’s Informal Settlement Research Series entitled “Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency”. The publications consist of three site‑based research reports on the informal settlements of Ratanang in Klerksdorp, North West Province; Marikana in Philippi, Cape Town, Western Cape; and Siyanda in KwaMashu, eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal. The fourth publication in the series is a synthesis report entitled “Here to Stay: A Synthesis of Findings and Implications from Ratanang, Marikana and Siyanda”.ISAR publications

ISAR launch Lauren speaks and Tiff

The first report, The Promised Land: Ratanang Informal Settlement, looks at life in the first research site, the Ratanang informal settlement, located in the west of Klerksdorp CBD in the City of Matlosana, North West province.

The second report, Our Place to Belong: Marikana Informal Settlement, shares findings from the second research site, the Marikana informal settlement, located in Philippi East in the City of Cape Town, Western Cape province.

The third report, Left Behind: Siyanda Informal Settlement, provides findings from the third research site, the Siyanda informal settlement, located in KwaMashu, eThekwini, in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The fourth report, Here to Stay: A Synthesis of Findings and Implications from Ratanang, Marikana and Siyanda synthesises and compares findings across the three research sites and considers the implications for upgrading in a comparative way across all three sites.

Through this research series, the publications 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. The research advocates for informal settlement upgrading to begin by taking into consideration the existing arrangements, systems, patterns and procedures that make up the norms, practices and agency of these settlements being upgraded.

The research explores these issues by looking at four themes across the three informal settlements:

  • tenure security and land use management;
  • access to basic services;
  • livelihoods and economic life; and
  • political space.

ISAR launch audience

Discussing the reports at the launch were Alana Potter (SERI director of research & advocacy), Lauren Royston (SERI senior associate) and Tiffany Ebrahim (SERI researcher). Stuart Wilson (SERI executive director) gave the welcome and opening address. The launch was attended by residents and community organisers of some informal settlements, government officials, academics and other practitioners. Discussions highlighted some of the tensions between informality and formality as well as the complexities that arise from interactions between informal settlement communities and government officials. Informal settlement residents exchanged lessons, challenges and experiences and reiterated the value of community organisation and deliberation. 

  • 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.




On 25 and 26 June 2019, SERI hosted a training-of-trainers workshop on the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 (ESTA) with the Surplus Peoples Project (SPP) and Matzikama Farmworkers Forum. The purpose of the two-day workshop was to equip participants from various organisations with a clear understanding of the tenure protections offered under ESTA in order to assist them in their work of protecting and advocating for the rights of farm dwellers across the Western Cape.

In attendance were roughly 30 participants, who together represented the following organisations: The Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), Matzikama Farmworkers Forum (MFF), Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), Citrusdal Advice Office, Cederberg Farmworkers Forum, Swartland Forum and the Women on Farms Project (WFP).


Each session of the workshop focused on a particular section of ESTA. This was accompanied by fact sheets which answered the topical questions including, “Does ESTA protect my Rights?”, “What does ESTA mean by occupier?” and “What does ESTA mean by consent?”. These resources were used in conjunction with the SERI publication “Protection against eviction under the extension of security of tenure act: legal rules, principles and process by Advocate Irene De Vos, who conducted sessions in both English and Afrikaans.  

Throughout the workshop, participants were able to engage both each other and facilitators in asking relevant questions and sharing practical experiences. From these discussions, it emerged that the most common grievances held by farmworkers were issues surrounding access to basic services such as water and electricity. Many of the participants had questions  concerning whether or not a farm owner was allowed to discontinue access to services, and whether the farm owner was allowed to conduct an eviction of farm dwellers without the presence of a sheriff. SERI emphasised that an eviction is illegal if it is not executed by a sheriff in possession of a valid court order and that disconnecting connections to water or electricity could constitute a constructive eviction.











  • Download SERI's guide on ESTA here
  • Download the ESTA fact sheets below:

1. Who is an occupier under ESTA?

2. Does ESTA protect my Rights?

3. What does ESTA mean by consent?





On Thursday, 4 July 2019, the Daily Maverick published an article by SERI senior associate, Lauren Royston, and SERI researcher, Tiffany Ebrahim on the importance of prioritising informal settlement upgrading as one way in which to answer the urban land reform question. 

Royston and Ebrahim argue that "informal settlements are not 'informal' places to live" and that "municipal and provincial interventions should begin by recognising the local norms, practices and agency which already exist in informal settlements. This requires government officials to work closely with residents and local leadership structures to both identify and understand lived realities, existing practices and challenges."

 Lauren Tiff DailyMav Op ed

  • Read the full op-ed here.


On Friday, 5 July 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) will launch four of its latest research publications on informal settlements in South Africa. The reports emanate from research entitled “Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency”.

The three site-based research reports are on Ratanang informal settlement in Klerksdorp (City of Matlosana); Marikana informal settlement in Philippi (City of Cape Town); Siyanda informal settlement in KwaMashu (eThekwini Municipality), 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.

The reports offer preliminary site-specific directions for future intervention and highlight implications for informal settlement upgrading in South Africa.


  • Read the full press statement here.

ISAR publications

Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency


We would like to extend our deepest congratulations to Khululiwe Bhengu who, after having completed her articles at SERI, has been admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa. Khululiwe joined SERI as a candidate attorney in January 2017 and was appointed a litigation fellow in March 2019.



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