On 8 November 2017, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI)'s senior associate, Lauren Royston, gave a presentation on how to secure tenure in the context of informal settlement upgrading at the Gauteng Land Development Summit held at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg. The summit, which was aimed at finding sustainable tenure and human settlements solutions to address the growing demand for housing in Gauteng, was attended by property developers, civil society representatives and government officials involved in the provision of housing and human settlments.
Royston's presentation highlighted a number of provisions in the legal and policy framework governing land use management and housing that could be used to enhance the tenure security and improve access to basic services for people living in informal settlement through the process of informal settlement upgrading. In particular, Royston referred to the Upgrading of Informal Settlement Programme (UISP) (which provides for "a variety of tenure arrangements [that] are to be defined through a process of engagement between local authorities and residents") and provisions relating to "special zones" in the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act 16 of 2013 (SPLUMA).
On 31 October 2017, Dr Mary Rayner, a human rights researcher with over 30 years of experience documenting human rights violations, appeared on SABC 2's longest running breakfast show, Morning Live, to discuss SERI's new research report on the disproportionate and unlawful use of force by police during the student protests at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2016. The new report, entitled A Double Harm: Police Misuse of Force and Barriers to Necessary Health Care Services (October 2017), documents the injuries caused by the misuse of force by the police who were called in to disperse campus-based protest at the university and deals with cases where the provision of medical assistance to injured protestors was obstructed by the police.
Rayner, a lead author of the report, stated that:
"We've examined a number of incidents where the injuries sustained were very troubling, the impact on the person injured is long-term and where there's no proper public discussion about what really happened... [These incident] can, in fact, profoundly impact on a perons because they feel it iw being denied, it didn't happen... We've offered to engage with [the police] ... and would very much welcome further discussion."
The report was launched last week along with Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (September 2017), a user-friendly guide for students that explains students’ rights to protest, as well as students’ rights when they are arrested, detained or charged with a crime during a protest.
The Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) and SERI mourn the passing of Mohau Melani (3 September 1977 – 31 October 2017), founding Chairperson of the SPCDF.
Mohau was the main deponent in the Slovo Park case wherein the City of Johannesburg was ordered to upgrade the Slovo Park Informal Settlement in terms of the UISP. He was instrumental in getting this case to the Court and ultimately achieving a positive outcome. His passing is a great loss to his family, friends and the informal settlement as a whole.
A memorial service will be held at Slovo Park Informal Settlement. All welcome.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institue of South Africa (SERI) is looking to appoint a Senior Researcher to become an essential part of our research and advocacy team and contribute to cutting edge research, community-based public education, media advocacy and associated services, and work with a wide range of communities, community based organisations (CBOs) and social movements. The position is based at SERI's offices in Braamfontein in Johannesburg, from 1 January 2018, or as soon as possible thereafter.
Interested applicants should have:
SERI is committed to transformation. Black South Africans and women are strongly encouraged to apply.
On Tuesday, 31 October 2017 at 16h00 to 18h00, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) launches its two latest research publications on student protest. The launch takes place at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church on 16 Stiemens Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
During 2015 and 2016, students on university campuses across South Africa embarked on large-scale, disruptive protests calling for systemic changes to how universities operate and approach education, as well as how academic curricula are structured. Government, university administrators, police and private security often responded to these protests with force in an attempt to shut them down. Universities approached the courts to obtain interdicts preventing students from protesting on campuses. The police used tear gas, stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets against protesting students in often disproportionate and unlawful uses of force. SERI's new resources document the misuse of force by police during student protest at the University of the Witwatersrand in late 2016, and provide information about the rights and obligations of those involved in student protests, including students, university administrators, the police and private security.
The first publication, entitled A Double Harm: Police Misuse of Force and Barriers to Necessary Health Care Services (October 2017), is a research report which documents the injuries caused by the disproportionate and unlawful use of force by police officers called in to disperse campus-based protest at the University of the Witwatersrand in September to November 2016. It also deals with the attempts to provide medical assistance to injured protestors, and documents cases in which these efforts were obstructed. A number of particularly concerning misuses of force took place while police tried to enforce a university-wide curfew. In one instance, police officers assaulted and shot a non-threatening student in her leg at close range with rubber bullets in the early hours of the morning because she was in her room watching a movie. The report notes that the University promised to investigate the incident but has, to date, failed to provide evidence that it has done so. This and other examples of the misuse of force raises serious questions about the appropriateness of the deployment of the police to regulate campus-based protest and highlight the need to proactively plan for how to deal with casualties and ensure speedy access to independent and competent medical care once police have been called onto university campuses —otherwise, obstruction and delays would inevitably compound harm.
The second publication, entitled Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (September 2017), is a user-friendly guide for students that explains students’ rights to protest, as well as students’ rights when they are arrested, detained or charged with a crime during a protest. It also explains what laws and policies say about these rights and what legal protections students have. This resource aims to create awareness of the rights and obligations of those involved in student protests to encourage students, university administrators, police and private security officials to respect human rights and mitigate the disproportionate and unlawful use of force.
SERI hopes that these new research outputs demonstrate that more needs to be done to respond reasonably and with respect to student protest, and that the public order police are, at best, a blunt instrument when deployed in response to campus-based protest action.