On June 16 South Africa commemorates Youth Day in honour of the youth of 1976 who were shot and killed by apartheid police during protest. In this op-ed SERI's Maanda Makwarela and Alana Potter reflect on the this tragic chapter in our history and how it mirrors events that took place in Marikana where 34 miners were shot and killed while protesting to demand a living wage and better working conditions.
In the article they argue that "in Marikana, Sharpeville and Soweto, the state failed to recognise the rights and humanity of protesters and then refused to be held accountable for the harm it had caused. In the aftermath of Sharpeville in 1960 and in 1976, the state hunted down protesters and political leaders and deepened its resolve to eradicate dissent.
In the aftermath of Marikana, the state labelled 250 protesters as “criminals” and promptly arrested them. Not a single police officer was arrested or charged. In its failure to take responsibility for its own actions in Marikana, the post-apartheid government was barely distinguishable from its predecessors."
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”
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).
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.