SERI's first newsletter of the year is out! The January 2017 edition covers, amongst others, a new research publication, our work for parliament's High Level Panel on the 'assessment of key legislation and the acceleration of fundamental change', and some of the litigation we have done in support of protesting students.
Today SERI's Director of Research and Advocacy, Lauren Royston, and Candidate Attorney Khuselwa Dyantyi are participating in an Inner City Partnership Forum Meeting in Berea.
Johannesburg's newly elected mayor Herman Mashaba is opening the forum. Following SERI's social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook for further updates.
SERI researchers Dennis Webster and Edward Molopi have written a piece in the Business Day on the Fischer case, which will be heard later this week in the Western Cape High Court, and some of the realities of life in the Marikana informal settlement.
They argue that, "more rigorous state intervention in urban property regimes propped up by inherited spatial legacies and unchallenged market forces are now required to undo SA’s "apartheid cities".
If the high court rules in favour of the Marikana residents and orders the state to consider expropriation, it will represent an unprecedented victory for the victims of Cape Town’s housing crisis against one of the most exclusive property regimes in the world.
It will also signal a fundamental shift in poor people’s struggles for access to well-located, serviced urban land and its attendant social and economic benefits and may set in place a legal strategy that can be utilised in these struggles."
In recent years, there has notably been an increase in protest action across all universities in South Africa. The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) has commissioned a legal opinion from SERI on the restraint of protest in or near university campuses.
Section 17 of the Constitution which specifies that “Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions”, is assessed against the apparent conflict with property rights on university campuses and the subsequent use of interdicts and force in restraining these protests.
The opinion aims to address the constitutional rights to the freedom of expression, bodily integrity and the rights of detained and arrested persons. The legal opinion has also taken cognisance of the legal judgments dealing with the right to protest.
SERI represented residents of Tudor Shaft informal settlement in an application, brought by the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE), to interdict a hazardous soil remediation exercise in a mine dump next to the settlement.
Studies had previously revealed that the residents were exposed to high concentrations of heavy metals and radioactive uranium. The proposed remediation would have disturbed this hazardous material and subjected the residents to unacceptable health risks. The environmental hazards arising from the mine dump had long been known to the residents, but their efforts to engage the municipality regarding access to adequate housing, the provision of basic services, and relocation to a safer environment, were unsuccessful.
Once an interim interdict restraining the remediation exercise was granted, SERI commissioned a report recommending that the residents be relocated to a safer site.
On the basis of the report, SERI sought the intervention of the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements (GDHS), eventually resulting in the construction of 500 “RDP” houses in Kagiso Ext 13. An agreement was reached that the residents who had applied, and who were found to qualify, for RDP homes would be relocated to Kagiso Ext 13, and that a special process would be implemented for the registration of those who had never applied for, or who did not qualify for, RDP homes.
As a result of that process it was found that the need for housing in Tudor Shaft required the construction of 234 further dwellings for those who qualify for RDP housing, to which the GDHS agreed. It was also agreed that approximately 100 people who did not qualify for RDP housing would be given safe, serviced land outside Tudor Shaft.
By the end of 2016, as a result of SERI’s intervention, almost 300 households had relocated from the Tudor Shaft settlement to safe permanent housing in Kagiso Ext 13. Thirty-four of the 234 further dwellings secured in SERI’s negotiations with GDHS had also already been constructed.