On 26 October 2017, SERI presented its recent research findings and lead discussions with paralegals and community advice officers from the 2017 Dullar Omar School for Paralegalism. Under the theme “empowering communities for sustainable democracy”, the programme sought to develop a medium to long term education and training strategy for Community Based Paralegals.
SERI presented under the transformative constitutionalism and socio-economic rights topic. The session was led by SERI community research and advocacy officer, Edward Molopi who facilitated a session on legal and practical issues relating to evictions and relocation to alternative accommodation. This was followed up by a session led by former SERI senior researcher, Tim Fish-Hodgson and current research fellow Nthabiseng Nkhatau who facilitated sessions on informal trader’s rights with a focus traders’ rights jurisprudence and lived realities and experiences of traders, respectively. The final session on spatial mismatch and how living on the peripheries of cities and economic hubs in metro areas impacts on people’s employment prospects, creating a poverty trap, was facilitated by SERI director of research and advocacy Alana Potter.
The session and the broader programme offered participants:
SERI is excited about the continued engagement with the Dullar Omar School and hopes to contribute to the paralegal training curriculum going forward.
On 24 October 2017, SERI's director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, challenged a number of myths about foreign migrants' access to housing in South Africa as part of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)'s indaba on access to housing for foreign migrants living in Gauteng. The idaba comes in the wake of comments made by the Mayor of the CIty of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, about his plans to evict and deport undocumented foreign migrants as part of his urban regeneration strategy. Panellists at the indaba included government officials, academics, and civil society representatives from a wide array of organisations, including SERI, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and African Diaspora Forum.
Potter's presentation focused on addressing some of the prevailing myths about foreign migrants and their access to housing. During her presentation, Potter stated:
"The [City of Johannesburg's] logic - or illogic - is that by evicting or deporting poor and undocumented people the city will become attractive to private investment for affordable housing ... Evicting, arresting and deporting foreign nationals is making no inroads towards addressing the structural and systemic issues that drive the inner-city accommodation crisis."
For more on Potter's presentation at the indaba, see the following media coverage:
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) is launching two new publications: A Double Harm: Police Misuse of Force and Barriers to Necessary Health Care Services (a report documenting the disporpotionate and illegal use of force by the police during student protests) and Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (a user-friendly guide to the law governing protests, interdicts and the use of force by the police and private security).
These publications aim 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.
The launch will include a panel discussion between student first aid volunteers, human rights lawyers who provided legal assistance to students during the protests, human rights researchers with extensive experience in document human rights abuses and physicians.
The launch will take place at the Trinity Residence Hall of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein on 31 October 2017, 16h00 to 18h00.
On 23 October 2017, SERI's executive director, Stuart Wilson, was interviewed by the SABC’s senior reporter, Candice Nolan, regarding the City of Johannesburg’s “the City” continuing strategy to force the poor out of the inner city in order to renovate so-called "bad buildings" and create low-cost rental accommodation.
The proposed rental accommodation is, however, likely to be unaffordable for people currently living in the inner city. The City intends to hand over occupied buildings to private developers to provide affordable rental housing. Wilson cautions against this approach and states that “the private sector cannot afford to provide housing for poor people and at the same time make a profit.” According to the 2011 Census, over 50% of the households in inner-city Johannesburg earn less than R3 200 a month. This means that they cannot afford to pay rental of more than R800 a month. The use of the private sector to provide affordable rental accommodation will result in the vast majority of low income households being are priced out of the rental market.
Furthermore, Wilson raised serious concerns with the approach taken by the City in attaining the required buildings and placing importance on physical buildings rather than the people living in them. More concerning is the use of police raids to force people to leave their homes.
On 29 June 2017, the municipal council of the City of Johannesburg (the City) approved the City of Johannesburg Draft Land Use Scheme, 2017. The land use scheme intends to give effect to section 24(1) of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act 16 of 2013 (SPLUMA) by replacing the 16 prevailing town planning schemes with a single consolidated land use scheme, which will apply to the entire municipal area. In City published the land use scheme in August 2017 and invited interested parties to submit comments. SERI submitted written comments on 13 October 2017.
SERI's submission raises a number of concerns about the land use scheme and makes various recommendations on how the council can amend or rectify these concerns. In particular, SERI is concerned that the scheme criminalises unauthorised land uses, fails to give the users and occupiers of land sufficient standing, and fails to make progressive use of special zones and the incremental introduction of land use management to address the challenges posed by informal settlements.