This week, SERI hosted the third Bertha Foundation's South African Public Interest Lawyers Advocacy Training. The workshop for young lawyers from across the South African public interest law sector. The workshop trains participants on trial advocacy and is facilitated by SERI and specialist advocacy trainers from City University in London.
Today SERI responds to Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille’s comments on a judgement from the Western Cape High Court which ordered the City of Cape Town to purchase land for 60 000 people of the “Marikana” informal settlement in Philippi near Cape Town which they currently occupy.
In an opinion piece published on 10 September 2017 Zille misrepresents the facts of the case, ignores the applicable law, and fails to come to grips with the practical realities faced by the Marikana residents, who face a daily struggle to secure a home.
On 5 September, SERI's director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, appeared of eNCA's Checkpoint to discuss the limited access to, and poor conditions of, sanitation services in informal settlements across South Africa.
Access to adequate sanitation is fundamental to personal dignity and security, social and psychological well-being, public health, poverty reduction, gender equality, economic development and environmental sustainability. Poor sanitation promotes the spread of preventable diseases like diarrhoea and cholera, places stress on the weakened immune system of HIV positive people and has a major impact on the quality of life of people living with AIDS. However, many informal settlement residents in both rural and urban areas are still forced daily to use wholly inadequate means of sanitation. In the majority of informal settlements, the sanitation services are public or communal. As a result, many informal settlement residents have to travel long distances to use toilets, and risk their own personal safety and health.
Potter also discusses the vulnerability of the janitorial workers who clean chemical toilets in informal settlements. As she says during the programme: "Janitorial workers are some of the worst treated casual labourers that we know in South Africa..."
SERI senior research associate, Lauren Royston will present at this year's Open Book Festival. The event is an annual literary festival which first took place in 2011. The festival will take place from 06 – 10 September 2017. Lauren will be joined on the panel entitled "Missing in Action?" by Adi Kumar and Sarita Pillay as they discuss urban land reform with Ben Cousins.
On 30 August, SERI's director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, presented on the spatial mismatch between where low-income people live and where empolyment opportunities exist and how national and provincial government can promote spatial justice in South African cities at the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluations (DPME)'s KwaZulu-Natal research dissemination conference as part of its Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development (PSPPD). The programme seeks to support the implementation of the country’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) through research and capacity-building within government. The policy conference was attended by approximately 40 participants, including senior and mid-level officials from various provincial and national government departments, academics and civil society researchers.
Potter's presentation was based on a research report published by SERI in 2016, entitled Edged Out: Spatial Mismatch and Spatial Justice in South Africa’s Main Urban Centres. The report, written by Josh Budlender (former SERI research fellow) and Lauren Royston (SERI senior research associate), shows that housing located on the urban periphery in South Africa’s major urban centres is far away from job opportunities and acts as a poverty trap. In South Africa, jobs and economic activity are generally concentrated in the urban centres. Wealthy (disproportionately white) South Africans live relatively close to these urban centres, while poorer (overwhelmingly black) South Africans live on the urban periphery, far from employment and economic opportunities. This means that in South Africa, where jobs are concentrated around urban centres, people who live on the urban periphery face higher unemployment because of their location. These challenges are exacerbated by unregulated property markets that are driving the poor from urban centres and the failure of the South African state to address apartheid race-based spatial planning. The report recommends that the state and city governments proactively intervene in housing markets to ensure that affordable well-located housing is accessible to the poor. This will be central to dismantling the “apartheid city” and moving towards urban spatial justice.