Niren Tolsi writes in the Mail & Guardian about the arrest and detention of Napoleon Webster. Napoleon, a community activist very active in the Marikana area including in campaigning for housing and land rights, has been denied bail after being arrested for his alleged participation in the murder of a local councillor.

He has now spent 151 days in Rustenberg prison for what he describes as "political" reasons.

There is strong evidence that Mr Webster was arrested because of his activism and not on the basis of any reasonable suspicion that he has committed any offence. He is a vocal opponent of the African National Congress and is closely associated with Black First Land First and the Economic Freedom Fighters. He has been active in supporting the victims of the Marikana massacre and was a consistent presence at the marikana commission of inquiry's proceedings.

On behalf of Mr Webster, SERI has filed a notice to appeal the Magistrate's decision refusing to grant Mr Webster bail to the North West High Court.

  • Read the full Mail & Guardian article here.
  • Read more about the 'Webster' case here.

On 2 June 2017, at least 100 people living on land under a bridge in Newtown that is currently owned by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) faced an eviction.

Legalbrief quotes SERI in their newsletter about the City of Johannesburg intervening on behalf of PRASA evictees:

The City of Johannesburg has obtained an order from the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) allowing occupiers in Newtown to return to land owned by Prasa after they were evicted on Friday. A Mail & Guardian Online report says the evictions were carried out by the Red Ants on the basis of a High Court order, which stipulated that an eviction can take place only if the City provides ‘all deserving unlawful occupiers’ with alternative accommodation. The court instructed the City to file a report about the accommodation, when it will be available, and ‘an undertaking to make that accommodation available’. The City subsequently failed to abide by the order because it did not provide accommodation itself as the court had ordered. Stuart Wilson, of the Socio-Economic Rights Institution, said the eviction on Friday was illegal because the court order allowing it to take place was suspended. ‘These people shouldn’t be evicted without alternative accommodation being provided,’ Wilson said.

  • Read the Mail & Guardian reports on the PRASA eviction here and here.
  • Read more about SERI's work on "Securing a Home" here.  

 

Using the case of the occupiers of Chung-Hua Mansionshe occupiers of Chung-Hua Mansions as an example, SERI's Keaton Allen-Gessesse and Lwazi Mtshiyo write on the harms of gentrification in Johannesburg's city centre. They illustrate how, in the face of gentrification, urban poor people can "strategically use the law to the keep a roof over their heads" to resist their displacement and eviction. 

  • Read the full article here.
  • Read more about the Chung-Hua Mansions case here.
  • Watch "The Road Home" about the experiences of the occupiers of Chung-Hua Mansions here.

This weekend's Mail & Guardian reports on RDP houses in Johannesburg's East Read that are being sold illegally.

The article makes mention of the Winnie Mandela case in which SERI represents 133 residents of the Winnie Mandela informal settlement, located in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. The residents have lived in shacks at the settlement without sufficient access to basic services since 1994.

On behalf of the Ekurhuleni Concerned Residents Association, SERI has approached the North Gauteng High Court, seeking an order requiring the muncipality and provincial government to take the necessary steps to grant the residents title to the land and upgrade the residents’ housing in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme or provide them with housing opportunities in developments that are close to Winnie Mandela.The case will be heard on 22 May 2017.

  • The Mail & Guardian article is available here.
  • Find more information on the Winnie Mandela case here.

SERI senior researcher Tim Fish Hodgson has reviewed recent Constitutional Court judgments regarding the rights of farm dweller. The piece, published in Africa is a Country, argues that recent judgments by the Court

"make it categorically clear that white farmers’ property rights need to be better balanced with black workers rights to dignity, housing and security of tenure. It accepts the vulnerability of black women to evictions despite protective laws noting they are “susceptible to untold mistreatment.” These are important reaffirmations by the court that it will not stand in the way of any efforts to redouble commitment to redistribution of land and wealth. This is of course, if politicians of various loyalties are indeed committed to “radical economic transformation” and claims of “economic freedom.” It invites us to question whether the constitution and judiciary are convenient scapegoats rather than obstructions to transformation as is now so often suggested."

  • Read the full op-ed here.

 

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