Slovo Park play

On Friday, SERI senior associate Michael Clark discussed our recent joint submission on informal settlements to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing on Valley FM.

In this discussion, Clark gives a general overview of informal settlement in South Africa, the challenges residents are faced with and policies that can be used upgrade informal settlements in order to improve living conditions within the settlements.

Statistics indicate that in 2016, approximately 1 in 7 households in South Africa lived in informal dwellings, this figure being higher in metropolitan areas, where 1 in every 5 households lived in an informal dwelling. Policies such as the Upgrading of Informal Settlement Programme (UISP) exist to address living conditions in informal settlements. The UISP provides for municipalities to apply for funding from provincial government to redevelop informal settlements by incrementally providing occupiers with infrastructure, tenure security, and access to basic services in an inclusive and participatory manner. The UISP policy is funded by Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG), which has unfortunately been consistently underspent by municipalities in the past five years.

Clark remarks “we hope that the UN Special Rapporteur finds the report helpful in developing her own report for the general assembly… and hopefully bring international attention to the lack of upgrading of informal settlements in South Africa”

  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Read the UN Special Rapporteur's questionnaire on informal settlements and human rights here.
  • Read the joint submission on informal settlements in South Africa (May 2018) here.

Kele A big

SERI welcomes Kelebogile Aplane to our litigation team. Kelebogile is a final year LLB student at the University of the Free State (UFS). She has served in various student and youth formations and led the #FeesMustFall and #OutsourcingMustFall movements at UFS. She is currently the chairperson of the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) at the same university. She is a social and political activist who is passionate about social justice, equality, black consciousness and Pan Africanism. Her interests are in politics involving the struggles of the working class, community building and working to protect and advance the rights of marginalised groups.

We look forward to her contribution to our work.

SERI's June 2018 newsletter is out! The last five months have been a busy period for us. SERI has continued to provide essential legal assistance to poor and low-income communities throughout the country. SERI currently has 92 active cases. In 53 of these, we are assisting 77,800 people to resist evictions from their homes in informal settlements, private homes or inner-city buildings. We're also celebrating some significant victories in relation to our expanding political space area of work.

We've also furthered our research and advocacy work, and participated in a number of exciting civil society and government engagements. These include workshops and dialogues with the South African Cities Network (SACN), Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).

In terms of our research, we've recently launched a user-friendly guide on the right of domestic workers and a working paper on the City of Johannesburg's decision to withdraw the universal provision of free basic water. Some older research on the realisation of the rights to housing, water and sanitation has also been published by the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR).

  • Read the SERI newsletter online here.
  • Subscribe to SERI's mailing list here.

The City of Ekurhuleni appealed a December 2017 decision where the North Gauteng High Court ordered the municipality to build 133 houses for the residents of the Winnie Mandela Informal Settlement near Tembisa by 31 December 2018. The court found that the City had breached the residents' housing rights by failing to provide them with houses that were constructed with state-approved housing subsidies that were meant for them. The houses were instead occupied by other people, often as a result of corruption in the housing allocation process.

The City challenged the decision on the basis that the High Court should have ordered it to treat the residents just like thousands of other people who were waiting for housing at a new development that it says will be ready “subject to funding availability” in 2021. This position is based on the misconception that the essence of the breach of the residents’ rights was in the municipality’s “unreasonable delay in constructing houses for the residents”. However, the breach of their housing rights actually stems from the fact that houses were actually constructed, but were not given to the residents for whom they were intended. 

The appeal was brought on a very narrow basis with the Supreme Court of appeal only having to decide whether the deadline set for the provision of the houses constituted appropriate relief. The matter was heard on 2 May 2018 in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal did not enter into the merits of whether or not the date ordered by the High court was appropriate but extended the deadline to 30 June 2019 with the city paying the residents’ legal costs.

  • Read more about the case here


On Monday, SERI director of litigation, Nomzamo Zondo discussed the lawfulness and constitutionality of over 20 police raids conducted on residents of 11 buildings in inner-city Johannesburg. The raids were conducted the behest of the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, between 30 June 2017 and 3 May 2018.

Nomzamo discussed the raids and the brutality that civilians experience. The most recent raid was conducted at 2am while residents were sleeping. The police forced them out of the building into the cold and continued to raid their homes.

SERI has launched a case on behalf of the residents of 11 buildings in inner-city Johannesburg challenging the lawfulness and constitutionality of the raids. The majority of the 20 raids were authorised in terms of section 13(7) of the South African Police Services Act 68 of 1995, which empowers the police to “cordon-off” an area to “restore public order or ensure the safety of the public”, while two were conducted without any legal authorisation at all. The residents challenge the constitutionality of section 13(7) insofar as it allows for a person’s home to be searched without a warrant issued by a court. The residents also claim compensation for the breach of their rights to privacy and human dignity.

  • Listen to the podcast here
  • Read more about the case and find all the papers here.
  • Read SERI's press statement here.

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