On 4 April 2019, SERI researchers delivered a guest lecture to New Urban Management Masters students studying through the Wits-TUB Urban Lab postgraduate programme for Sub-Saharan Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Architecture and Planning.
SERI’s Maanda Makwarela and Tiffany Ebrahim presented SERI’s litigation, research and advocacy influence on urban management in Johannesburg. They discussed the legacy of apartheid spatial planning in South Africa’s cities and shared policy lessons and implications from informal settlements and Johannesburg’s inner city.
Read more about SERI’s work in spatial inequality here.
SERI represents a community of approximately 60,000 people living in Marikana informal settlement in opposition of an application for eviction.
On 30 August 2017, the Western Cape High Court dismissed an application to evict the community. The Court found that the City had infringed the constitutional property rights of the owners of the Marikana land, and had also breached the housing rights of the Marikana residents by its unreasonable failure to do anything to secure the tenure of the Marikana residents. In its judgment, the Court directed the City to initiate the process provided for in terms of section 9(3) of the Housing Act, by entering into good faith negotiations to purchase the Marikana land, and expropriating the land in the event that purchase negotiations failed. The property owners, the City of Cape Town and the Provincial Minister launched a consolidated appeal against the High Court judgment.
On 8 April 2019, SERI, on behalf of the occupiers, filed heads of argument in the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA), arguing that the High Court correctly identified the standard expected of the state in responding to land occupations of this nature which require the state to respond reasonably to an occupation and that the only legal basis on which the state parties to this case can take steps to acquire the properties on which the occupiers reside is to exercise the City’s powers under section 9(3) of the Housing Act. SERI further argued that the appeals brought by the City, the Provincial Minister for Human Settlements, and the property owners should be dismissed.
SERI is opposing the appeal to protect the community from a potential eviction, secure tenure and enable eventual upgrading.
SERI represents 29 market traders trading near the Mogwase Shopping Complex in Mogwase in the North West threatened with eviction from the space in which they conduct their business and use to earn a living.
Transnet approached the High Court in Mafikeng seeking an order to evict the market traders alleging that they are trading on land currently owned by the Republic of South Africa which will soon be transferred and registered to Transnet. Transnet alleges that the traders are trading on their property, close to a railway line, which poses a safety risk for the traders. Transnet further states that they have engaged with the municipality in order to resolve the situation but the municipality has not been responsive.
On 4 April 2019, SERI, on behalf of the market traders, filed heads of arguments with the Mahikeng High Court arguing that:
1) Transnet does not own the land on which the market traders are operating;
2) The traders’ activities are not illegal and are recognised and protected in terms of the Businesses Act 71 of 1991;
3) The traders do not operate on or near a railway line but between the shopping complex and housing estate and are not enticing people to cross railway lines to access their stalls; and,
4) The traders have been trading on the land for almost 20 years, not four.
The case will be heard in 2019.
Read more about the case here.
On Sunday, 31 March, the City Press published an op-ed by SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako which challenged some of the common misconceptions around protest activity in South Africa and unpacked some of the reasons behind skewed public perceptions of protest. The op-ed also considers the important role that protest has played in our 25 year democracy and draws attention to the disproportionate amount of force that they are usually met with.
Masiangoako argues that “we need to shift our perceptions of protest and begin to understand it in the context of profound inequalities and extreme levels of poverty. Without this, we run the risk of dismissing the ways in which government is failing the poor and marginalised.”
Read the full op-ed here.