SERI represents Abahlali baseMjondolo and the residents of eKhenana informal settlement in an interdict application against the City of eThekwini. This case arises from the Interdict application brought by the occupiers of eKhenana informal settlement in Cator Crest, Durban on 24 December 2018. There are 109 households in total and about 201 people including children and elderly people. Most of the households are women-headed households.
The eKhenana informal settlement was established in August 2018 on a piece of vacant land in Cator Crest. Following their occupation, the City attempted to demolish and unlawfully evict the occupiers on several occasions. On 27 December 2018, SERI challenged these on-going evictions against the occupiers. The matter was postponed to allow for both parties to file their supplementary affidavits. In the interim, the court interdicted the municipality and its land invasion unit from continuing with evicting or demolishing homes in the eKhenana Informal Settlement. The court also restricted the residents from erecting any new structures.
However, the municipality continued to illegally demolish homes in the settlement. On 13 February 2019, Abahlali, represented by SERI, approached the Durban High Court on an urgent basis to interdict eThekwini Municipality from demolishing homes in the settlement. The court granted the interdict and instructed officials of the Land Invasion Unit together with leaders from Abahlali to convene a joint inspection in the settlement in order to seek agreement on the demarcation of the site.
On 22 April 2020 , the City and its contracted security agency, Calvin Family Security Services demolished 14 homes in the settlement. These homes were demolished without a court order and while the interdict was still in effect. SERI filed an urgent application to the High Court for an interdict, contempt and compensation for the damage to the property. The matter was settled and an undertaking was signed on 24 April 2020 wherein the City undertook to “refrain from demolishing, burning and removing or disposing of the Applicant’s informal housing structures in the informal settlement or from causing this to take place”. However, minutes after the judgment was issued the eThekwini Municipality’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit attacked the occupation and shot one of the occupiers who was rushed to hosipital with serious injuries.
In accordance with the announcement on 25 April 2020 by Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, informal waste recyclers will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity under level 4 of the lockdown. As of 1 May 2020, South Africa will move to Level 4. SERI welcomes the inclusion of informal waste reclaimers.
On 23 April 2020, SERI submitted recommendations to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on the COVID-19 regulations and directions to allow informal waste reclaimers to operate during the lockdown. The submission was also sent to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Minister of Environmental Forestry and Fisheries.
Considering the harmful impact that the lockdown has had on the ability of many who make a living in the informal economy, the submission called for the inclusion of informal reclaimers in the definition of essential services.
On Thursday, 23 April 2020, SERI in collaboration with Ndifuna Ukwazi, Lawyers for Human Rights, Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, Legal Resource Centre and ProBono.Org addressed a statement to the National Command Council, relevant Cabinet Ministers and respective Provincial Departments of Human Settlements.
The statement addresses the insufficient measures currently in place to safeguard against landlords disconnecting a tenant’s electricity and water connection during the lockdown.
The organisations note, with concern, that evictions have continued during the national lockdown despite COVID-19 regulations explicitly prohibiting the eviction of people from their homes.
“Since the beginning of the lockdown we have collectively received 82 reports and requests for assistance from persons being evicted or threatened with eviction by private landlords during this national lockdown. We note that these are cases that have been reported to this collective, it is likely that there are many more across the country. In some instances, the SAPS have been helpful in protecting tenants but this is not always the case. We are now also increasingly receiving reports that landlords have disconnected electricity and water or have threatened to disconnect water and electricity. The disconnection of electricity and water deprives a tenant of essential services which are needed to combat COVID-19 and significantly denudes the underlying reasons why a person’s home is considered their first line of defence.”
To this end, the organisations call on the National Command Council and the relevant provincial and municipal task teams:
Read the full statement here.
On 11 April 2020, a group of civil society organisations made a submission to the Department of Human Settlements (NDHS) on its proposed strategy to de-densify informal settlements in response to COVID-19. Through the COVID-19 Informal Sector Task Team and Engagement Platform established by the NDHS, CSO’s have also engaged with the NDHS regarding strategy and submitted that:
“The informal settlement communities we work with have expressed deep concerns about the social, political, economic and technical impact of de-densification and the disruption it is likely to cause. Similarly, international experts and leading organisations, such as the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, UN-Habitat and Amnesty International, have taken a strong stance against relocations and evictions of any kind as a response to COVID-19.”
The submission argues that de-densification should not be the central thrust of a human settlements response to informal settlements. It calls for a wide-scale emergency response to provide water, sanitation, hygiene and food relief to all informal settlement residents.
The submission sets out the considerations, risks and unintended consequences that together indicate that de-densification should not be adopted as a strategy to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19. It then proposes alternative and more sustainable responses in the short, medium and long term to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of these short-term (0 – 3 months) response priorities include: