SERI, in partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), hosted a workshop on the law related to evictions, in Durban in the KwaZulu Natal on 2 October 2014. The workshop was aimed at presenting the legal obligations and court judgments in relation to evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation to local government officials in order to enable officials to develop more appropriate and constitutionally compliant responses to housing and eviction-related issues in their jurisdictions. This was the second workshop of this nature, with the first being conducted in East London in the Eastern Cape.

The workshop was attended by over 60 participants from a number of municipalities in the KwaZulu Natal, including national and provincial government officials, ward councillors and local government officials responsible for human settlements, legal compliance, infrastructure and planning. Participants at the workshop identified the need for municipalities to react more proactively to evictions in their jurisdictions. It also became clear that evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation in the event of homelessness pose complex, multi-disciplinary challenges to municipalities which require collective action among all the relevant stakeholders.

SERI’s presentation was based on the findings of a SERI research report published in November 2013 – Evictions and Alternative Accommodation in South Africa: An Analysis of the Jurisprudence and Implications for Local Government – which consolidates and analyses the case law in relation to evictions in South Africa. The report was written as a guide to activists, communities and lawyers caught up in eviction-related struggles, as well as local government officials who are tasked with developing and implementing housing policy.

  • Access SERI’s presentation here.
  • Access the full research report here, and a summary here

Today the online platform, Open Democracy, published an excellent article by SERI executive director, Stuart Wilson, entitled "Without means, there are no real rights".

The article discusses the indivisibility of socio-economic rights and civil and political rights and the need for socio-economic rights to satisfactorily enforce political action. Wilson argues that for political rights to be useful, there must also be means for persons to enforce those rights. As Wilson writes: "[I]f you really care about political freedom, then you have to care about economic freedom."

The article examines the need for rights-based litigation as well as "political mobilisation and follow-up action" to ensure that opportunities are created for "truly transformative political action". This requires "economic freedom" which Wilson argues should be "understood as a necessary precondition for the exercise of political rights [and] does not entail the absolute protection of property rights. It instead requires the redistribution of economic goods to the extent necessary to ensure that everyone has more or less equal access to the means of self-realisation. For without those means, civil and political rights are empty."

  • Read the article (23 September 2014) here.

On 18 September 2014, SERI partnered with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to host a workshop on the law related to evictions, in East London in the Eastern Cape. The workshop was aimed at presenting the legal obligations in relation to evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation to local government officials in order to enable officials to develop more appropriate responses to housing and eviction-related issues in their jurisdictions. This was the first in a series of similar workshops that will be conducted in KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape.

The workshop was attended by approximately 40 participants from a number of municipalities in the Eastern Cape, including provincial government officials, ward councillors and local government officials responsible for human settlements, legal compliance and planning.

SERI’s presentation was based on the findings of a SERI research report published in November 2013 – Evictions and Alternative Accommodation in South Africa: An Analysis of the Jurisprudence and Implications for Local Government – which consolidates and analyses the case law in relation to evictions in South Africa. The report was written as a guide to activists, communities and lawyers caught up in eviction-related struggles, as well as local government officials who are tasked with developing and implementing housing policy.

  • Access SERI’s presentation here.
  • Access the full research report here, and a summary here.

Today SERI launched a new research report entitled An Anatomy of Dissent and Repression: The Criminal Justice System and the 2011 Thembelihle Protest.

SERI researcher Michael Clark explained how in September 2011 residents of Thembelihle informal settlement in Lenasia took to the streets, frustrated by an unaccountable and unresponsive local government. Their demands were dismissed and instead they were met with a forceful police clamp-down. In the aftermath of the protest, arrest and criminal prosecution were used to harass and intimidate community members and to target community leaders.

Bhayiza Miya, former spokespeLaunch of reportrson of the Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC), spoke at the event about how he was arrested by the police during the protest, after visiting the police station on another matter, and charged with public violence and intimidation. Additional charges, on which no further evidence was provided, were also brought against him. He was singled out for his role in the TCC, being the only arrested resident denied immediate bail. According to Miya “The decision to prosecute me was clearly political and coming from elsewhere.”

Miya also highlighted the frustrations of community residents over their appalling living conditions and the unresponsiveness of government officials and politicians to their plight. According to him, despite what many think “People in informal settlements don't just wake up one day from sleeping and decide to protest.” He explained how the government simply ignored issues raised during peaceful protests earlier in the year, putting it bluntly - “Real protest is the only language government understands.”

Former deputy editor of the Daily Maverick Phillip de Wet spoke about his experience covering the Thembelihle protest as well as more generally about media coverage of protests. He offered a pessimistic view of the media’s appetite or ability to cover protests at all, let alone in a more nuanced manner.

According to Stuart Wilson, SERI’s executive director: “The role of the media in covering issues facing informal settlement communities is critical. Currently much of the media uncritically perpetuates the worst kind of racial and class stereotypes. This needs to change.”

  • Download the full SERI press statement (16 September 2014) here.
  • Read the full research report (including the executive summary) here.
  • Read more on Bhayiza Miya’s criminal case here.
  • View pictures of the launch here.

On 10 September 2014, SERI made submissions before the Lwandle Ministerial Enquiry. The inquiry was established by the Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, to investigate the circumstances under which the eviction of over 800 residents of the Lwandle community in Cape Town on 2 and 3 June 2014 took place. The eviction was violently executed in freezing weather with no alternative accommodation provided, to considerable public outcry.

SERI's submission to the Lwandle Ministerial Enquiry provides background to the organisation and its work, briefly summarises eviction law and jurisprudence in South Africa, and examines three cases where the constitutional and legislative protections for unlawful occupiers were circumvented: Zulu, Fischer and Lwandle.

The submission also looks at proactive ways that the state can address land occupation, discussing the rather unhelpful discourse of the “housing waiting list” and two of government’s key housing programmes: the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) and the Emergency Housing Programme (EHP). Finally, the submission provides some concluding remarks and recommendations.

  • Read SERI's full Submission to the Lwandle Ministerial Enquiry (revised 15 September 2014) here.

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