On 25 and 26 June 2019, SERI hosted a training-of-trainers workshop on the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 (ESTA) with the Surplus Peoples Project and Matzikama Farmworkers Forum. The purpose of the two-day workshop was to equip participants from various organisations with a clear understanding of the tenure protections offered under ESTA in order to assist them in their work of protecting and advocating for the rights of farm dwellers across the Western Cape.
In attendance were roughly 30 participants, who together represented the following organisations: CASAAWU, Matzikama Farmworkers Forum, TCOE, Citrusdal advice office, Cederberg Farmworkers Forum, Swartland Forum and the Women on Farms project.
Each session of the workshop focused on a particular section of ESTA. This was accompanied by fact sheets which answered the topical questions including, “Does ESTA protect my Rights?”, “What does ESTA mean by occupier?” and “What does ESTA mean by consent?”. These resources were used in conjunction with the SERI publication “Protection against eviction under the extension of security of tenure act: legal rules, principles and process” by Advocate Irene De Vos, who conducted sessions in both English and Afrikaans.
Throughout the workshop, participants were able to engage both each other and facilitators in asking relevant questions and sharing practical experiences. From these discussions, it emerged that the most common grievances held by farmworkers were issues surrounding access to basic services such as water and electricity. Many of the participants had questions concerning whether or not a farm owner was allowed to discontinue access to services, and whether the farm owner was allowed to conduct an eviction of farm dwellers without the presence of a sheriff. SERI emphasised that ESTA that an eviction is illegal if it is not executed by a sheriff and must be accompanied by an order of court and that disconnecting connections to water or electricity could constitute a constructive eviction.
On Thursday, 4 July 2019, the Daily Maverick published an article by SERI senior associate, Lauren Royston, and SERI researcher, Tiffany Ebrahim on the importance of prioritising informal settlement upgrading as one way in which to answer the urban land reform question.
Royston and Ebrahim argue that "informal settlements are not 'informal' places to live" and that "municipal and provincial interventions should begin by recognising the local norms, practices and agency which already exist in informal settlements. This requires government officials to work closely with residents and local leadership structures to both identify and understand lived realities, existing practices and challenges."
On Friday, 5 July 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) will launch four of its latest research publications on informal settlements in South Africa. The reports emanate from research entitled “Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency”.
The three site-based research reports are on Ratanang informal settlement in Klerksdorp (City of Matlosana); Marikana informal settlement in Philippi (City of Cape Town); Siyanda informal settlement in KwaMashu (eThekwini Municipality), and a fourth Synthesis Report that pulls together findings in each of the themes (tenure security and land use management; political space; access to basic services and economic life) across the three sites.
The reports offer preliminary site-specific directions for future intervention and highlight implications for informal settlement upgrading in South Africa.
Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency
We would like to extend our deepest congratulations to Khululiwe Bhengu who, after having completed her articles at SERI, has been admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa. Khululiwe joined SERI as a candidate attorney in January 2017 and was appointed a litigation fellow in March 2019.
On 12 and 13 June, SERI participated in a national housing conference hosted by the Isandla Institute entitled, “Urban citizenship as a verb: Facilitating action through coalitions for change”. The conference brought together 80 academics, practitioners, activists, and government officials from various sectors to explore ways in which to expand and sustain urban citizenship. Participants included representatives from various non-profit organisations, social justice organisations, universities, municipal housing departments, the Department of Human Settlements, and the Department of Cooperative Governance.
The event focused on examining various issues through an urban lens including: governance, land reform, sustainability/resilience, dignity and safety, employment and food security, and communities of practice. Over two days, the presenters reflected on advances made within each focus area and on how collaborative approaches have advanced the work of urban development. Participants engaged in deep discussions about the disconnect between policy and implementation and on the challenges facing the holistic development of sustainable human settlements in urban areas. The varied perspectives from the conference participants provided for deep discussion, debate and knowledge sharing.
The 2-day conference also served to mark the 20-year anniversary of the Isandla Institute as a key role player in local governance and development issues in South Africa.