TargetingthePoorToday SERI convened a civil society roundtable discussion on municipal indigent policies and the provision of free basic services (FBS) in South Africa. The roundtable marked the official launch of a SERI research report entitled "Targeting the Poor? An Analysis of Free Basic Services (FBS) and Municipal Indigent Policies in South Africa". A summary of the report is available here

The report provides an overview of the law and policies relevant to free basic services (FBS) and municipal indigent policies in South Africa. It details the regulations and strategies around FBS - which includes free basic water (FBW), free basic electricity (FBE), free basic sanitation (FBSan) and free basic refuse removal (BRR) - and examines the framework policy and implementation guidelines for municipal indigent policies.

SERI's research highlights problems with the implementation of indigent policies, around the following issues: targeting methods for FBS, municipal systems of indigent application, conditionalities attached to indigent status and FBS, and FBS amount provided. While the policy aim of the FBS programme is ensure that poor households are able to access basic services, its current implementation has the overall effect of targeting poor households for exclusion.

  • Read the full report here.
  • Read the summary of the report here.


Abahlali baseMjondolo has filed its heads of argument as amicus curiae in the Marikana land occupation appeal. The appeal will be heard on 27 May 2014 in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). The occupiers are represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), while SERI represents Abahlali as amicus in the appeal.

The case involves the occupation of a piece of privately-owned land, dubbed "Marikana", located in Philippi, Cape Town. The property owner and the City of Cape Town are appealing an order handed down by the Western Cape High Court in March 2014, which found that the City's Anti-Land Invasion Unit had unlawfully demolished informal structures on the land. The City was ordered to rebuild the shacks. The court rejected the City's argument that it was entitled to demolish structures without a court order if it deemed the structures were unoccupied.

This case raises important issues relating to the circumstances in which an organ of state may take steps to remove people and material from unlawfully occupied land, and/or demolish structures erected on that land, without an order of court authorising an eviction.

  • Amicus curiae heads of argument here and practice note (15 May 2014) here.
  • Read more on the case and download the other court papers here.

SERI's May 2014 newsletter is now available here. This is the first edition for 2014 and highlights SERI's research, advocacy and litigation work over the past 6 months. To sign up for SERI newsletters, press statements etc, fill out the mailing list form here.

SERI has noted with concern the deletion of paragraph 1.5 from the Marikana Commission of Inquiry's Terms of Reference, and the announcement that the Commission intends to curtail its proceedings on 31 July 2014.

The clause in paragraph 1.5 empowered the Commission to investigate “the role played by the Department of Mineral Resources or any other government department or agency in relation to the incident and whether this was appropriate in the circumstances and consistent with their duties and obligations according to law." The deletion of this clause has created the impression that the Commission does not intend to require any of the relevant cabinet Ministers to testify before it in relation to the role they played in the events leading up to the 16 August 2012 massacre at Marikana.

SERI remains of the view that, in particular, the Minister of Police has questions to answer in relating to his role in instigating and escalating the police operation that led to the massacre. Any failure to require him or any other cabinet minister in possession of relevant information to testify before the Commission would seriously undermine the Commission's credibility.

Today SERI made enquiries with the Commission. We sought clarification on the meaning and effect of deleting paragraph 1.5 of the Terms of Reference. We have been assured that –

  1. Phase 1 includes a full investigation of the role of the SAPS, and why they acted as they did. If any instructions were given to the SAPS, or if any other conduct by people outside the SAPS, including cabinet ministers, led to the SAPS acting as they did, that would fall squarely within Phase 1. This issue is covered by paragraph 1.2 of the Terms of Reference, which has not been amended. (Phase 1 of the Commission’s enquiry deals with the injuries and deaths during 9 to 16 August 2012, and responsibility for those injuries and deaths.)
  2. The removal of paragraph 1.5 of the Terms of Reference does not in any way affect Phase 1 of the Commission’s enquiry.
  3. The Commission has received statements from the Minister of Police and Mr Cyril Ramaphosa with regard to their role in relation to the conduct of the SAPS. As matters currently stand, it is anticipated that they will be called to give oral evidence. The deletion of paragraph 1.5 of the terms of reference will have no impact on that.

SERI remains concerned that the deletion of paragraph 1.5 now makes it unlikely that the Commission will consider any of the broader policy determinants of the events of, and leading up to, 16 August 2012. This is a missed opportunity. Finally, SERI believes that even though the Commission’s mandate has now been significantly narrowed, it will not be able to hear all the necessary evidence before 31 July. We will be engaging with the Commission on this issue and will make further announcements in due course.

  • SERI press statement (10 May 2014) here.
  • Marikana Commission Terms of Reference (12 September 2012) here and amendments (5 May 2014) here.
  • Read more on SERI's involvement at the Marikana Commission here.

On 5 May 2014, residents of the Ekuthuleni shelter - who were moved as part of the Blue Moonlight Constitutional Court case - filed their heads of argument in Dladla case against the City of Johannesburg. The case seeks to challenge the rules and conditions in the shelter, which is run by Metro Evangelical Services (MES), an NGO operating in inner city Johannesburg.

The shelter is subject to various draconian house rules which the residents argue infringe their constitutional rights to dignity, privacy, freedom and security of the person, equality and access to adequate housing. The rules include day-time lock-out, which means residents are not allowed to stay in the shelter during the day; and gender segregated dorms, which have the effect of splitting up family units. The residents are also challenging the City’s claim that it is entitled to evict them without a court order. This, the residents argue, is contrary to section 26(3) of the Constitution, which prohibits evictions without a court order.

The Dladla case is important in that it may clarify a number of crucial legal questions, including whether alternative accommodation provided to prevent homelessness due to an eviction constitutes a home for purposes of constitutional right of access to adequate housing, and whether the managed care shelter model advocated by the City is constitutionally appropriate.

The case will most likely be argued in the South Gauteng High Court in September 2014.

  • Read the residents’ heads of argument (5 May 2014) here.
  • Read more about the case here.

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