SERI senior research associate, Lauren Royston will present at this year's Open Book Festival. The event is an annual literary festival which first took place in 2011. The festival will take place from 06 – 10 September 2017. Lauren will be joined on the panel entitled "Missing in Action?" by Adi Kumar and Sarita Pillay as they discuss urban land reform with Ben Cousins.
On 30 August, SERI's director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, presented on the spatial mismatch between where low-income people live and where empolyment opportunities exist and how national and provincial government can promote spatial justice in South African cities at the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluations (DPME)'s KwaZulu-Natal research dissemination conference as part of its Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development (PSPPD). The programme seeks to support the implementation of the country’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) through research and capacity-building within government. The policy conference was attended by approximately 40 participants, including senior and mid-level officials from various provincial and national government departments, academics and civil society researchers.
Potter's presentation was based on a research report published by SERI in 2016, entitled Edged Out: Spatial Mismatch and Spatial Justice in South Africa’s Main Urban Centres. The report, written by Josh Budlender (former SERI research fellow) and Lauren Royston (SERI senior research associate), shows that housing located on the urban periphery in South Africa’s major urban centres is far away from job opportunities and acts as a poverty trap. In South Africa, jobs and economic activity are generally concentrated in the urban centres. Wealthy (disproportionately white) South Africans live relatively close to these urban centres, while poorer (overwhelmingly black) South Africans live on the urban periphery, far from employment and economic opportunities. This means that in South Africa, where jobs are concentrated around urban centres, people who live on the urban periphery face higher unemployment because of their location. These challenges are exacerbated by unregulated property markets that are driving the poor from urban centres and the failure of the South African state to address apartheid race-based spatial planning. The report recommends that the state and city governments proactively intervene in housing markets to ensure that affordable well-located housing is accessible to the poor. This will be central to dismantling the “apartheid city” and moving towards urban spatial justice.
On 30 August 2017, the Western Cape High Court dismissed an application to evict 60 000 people living in the “Marikana” informal settlement in Philippi near Cape Town. In its ground-breaking case, the court ordered the City of Cape Town (the City) to enter into good faith negotiations with the property owners about purchasing the land for the Marikana residents. If negotiations fail, the court ordered the City to expropriate the land or provide reasons why it is unable to do so.
SERI represented the majority of the residents of the Marikana informal settlement. The residents moved into the Marikana informal settlement because they had been evicted from backyard shacks or other rented accommodation or informal settlements elsewhere in Cape Town. In February, SERI argued to court that state purchase or expropriation of the Marikana land are the only reasonable options that could be pursued in order to avoid making the Marikana residents homeless again. SERI further submitted that section 9(3) of the Housing Act 107 of 1997 provides the appropriate legal framework within which to manage the purchase or expropriation of the Marikana land, and that the City’s failure to initiate the process required by section 9(3) is unreasonable and unconstitutional.
In July 2017, the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements (the Department) published the Gauteng Land Invasion Management and Prevention Policy, 2017, and invited interested parties to comment on the policy. The policy seeks to regulate unlawful occupation of land in the province. SERI submitted written comments on the policy on 28 August 2017.
In our submission, SERI welcomes the Department's attempts to address unlawful land occupation in a manner that respects the constitutional rights of unlawful occupiers and takes stock of the legal framework governing evictions. In particular, SERI recognises that the principles and positions underlying the policy affirm the rights of unlawful occupiers in significant ways.
However, despite the principles and positions underlying the policy, there are various concerns with the policy. The bulk of SERI's submission deals with these concerns. In this respect, SERI's submission clarifies the law related to evictions and the constitutional duty of municipaltities to provide alternative accommodation to occupiers who would be rendered homeless as a result of an eviction; argues that the policy is an inappropriate response to urbanisation and is likely to encourage evictions; questions the lack of clarity about “registration permits” and “site allocations” and the Department’s silence on the appropriateness of Anti-Land Invasion Units; and raises concerns about the policy's failure to prioritise proactive ways to address unlawful land occupation.
On 25 August 2017, SERI's executive director, Stuart Wilson, discussed urban regeneration and the City of Johannesburg (the City)'s recent raids on inner-city buildings with Stephen Groottes on the Midday Report on 702 Radio.
Wilson charaterised the ongoing raids by the Joburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the City as inhumane and unconstitutional. He said that the City needs to adopt a regeneration strategy that respects people's constitutional rights and focuses on ensuring that low-income households have access to affordable housing:
"What we need to see in an inner city regeneration strategy is one that expands access to affordable housing, truly affordable housing for poor people and treats them as human beings."