The North Gauteng High Court today ordered the Ekurhuleni Municipality to build 133 houses for the residents of the Winnie Mandela Informal Settlement near Tembisa.

Judge Mmonoa Teffo found that Ekurhuleni had failed to provide the residents with houses that were constructed with their government-approved housing subsidies. The houses were instead occupied by other, unknown people, often as a result of corruption in the housing allocation process, which Ekurhuleni controls. This breached the residents’ constitutional and statutory housing rights. Ekurhuleni, Judge Teffo held, knew that the housing allocation process was marred by fraud and mismanagement, but failed to ensure that the residents were provided with the houses they were entitled to. The residents have been living in shacks for several years as a result, often receiving municipal accounts for houses they could not move into, because they had been allocated to other, unknown people. 

Judge Teffo held that Ekurhuleni had overseen a corrupt and deeply compromised housing allocation process that denied the residents the benefit of their subsidies. This, Judge Teffo decided, breached the residents’ right to housing in the Constitution and the laws and policies that have been adopted by the government to give effect to those rights.

Ekurhuleni was ordered to build each of the residents a house at Tembisa Extension 25, or at another agreed location, by no later than 31 December 2018. Ekurhuleni was also ordered to form a committee with the residents to engage with them on the progress of the construction project. Ekurhuleni was also ordered to pay the residents’ legal costs.

  • Read more about the case here.
  • Read full press statement here. 

Today the Business Day published an op-ed by, SERI researchers, Tiffany Ebrahim and Edward Molopi, and Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) attorney, Zeenat Sujee, regarding the Constitutional Court's momentous decision to declare the City of Johannesburg (the City)'s emergency shelter rules unconstitutional. 

In 2010, in accordance with an order of the Constitutional Court, the City provided unlawful occupiers living in a commercial building on Saratoga Avenue in Johannesburg’s inner-city alternative accommodation at Ekuthuleni, a homeless shelter managed by Metropolitan Evangelical Services (MES). The accommodation at the shelter was conditional on a number controversial and degrading house rules, including a day-time lock out rule (residents were locked out of the shelter during the day and were only allowed to re-enter between 5:30 in the afternoon and 8 o’clock at night), rules that meant that families could not live together (residents lived in gender segregated dormitory style rooms, which meant that married couples and life partners were separated from each other) and rules that limited the privacy of residents. The City intended on rolling out the shelter model as a preferred model for providing emergency shelter to occupiers who were rendered homeless as a result of evictions or other emergencies. 

The Constitutional Court declared the shelter rules "cruel, condescending and degrading" and found that the rules infringed the residents' rights to dignity, freedom and security of the person and privacy. 

Ebrahim, Molopi and Sujee write that the shelter rules had a disproportionately negative effect on women. They state that: 

"Segregated living spaces run the risk of limiting female access to information and decision-making processes. Information sharing that remains between men disadvantages women from making an equal contribution."

They conclude that although the Constitutional Court did not not reference the gendered dimensions of housing or, indeed, the resident’s housing rights, there is a possibility that the outcome will have a positive impact on women, children and families living in shelters. 

  • Read the full op-ed here.
  • Read SERI's press statement about the Constitutional Court's judgment in the Dladla case here.
  • Read more about the Dladla case here.

On 12 December 2017, SERI's director of litigation, Nomzamo Zondo, was interviewed by the SABC News's senior reporter Candice Nolan about the Constitutional Court's recent decision to declare the City of Johannesburg (the City)'s emergency shelter rules unconstitutional.

In 2010, in accordance with an order of the Constitutional Court, the City provided unlawful occupiers living in a commercial building on Saratoga Avenue in Johannesburg’s inner-city alternative accommodation at Ekuthuleni, a homeless shelter managed by Metropolitan Evangelical Services (MES). The accommodation at the shelter was conditional on a number controversial and degrading house rules, including a day-time lock out rule (residents were locked out of the shelter during the day and were only allowed to re-enter between 5:30 in the afternoon and 8 o’clock at night), rules that meant that families could not live together (residents lived in gender segregated dormitory style rooms, which meant that married couples and life partners were separated from each other) and rules that limited the privacy of residents. The City intended on rolling out the shelter model as a preferred model for providing emergency shelter to occupiers who were rendered homeless as a result of evictions or other emergencies. 

The Constitutional Court declared the shelter rules "cruel, condescending and degrading" and found that the rules infringed the residents' rights to dignity, freedom and security of the person and privacy. 

  • Listen to the full podcast here.
  • Read SERI's press statement about the Constitutional Court's judgment in the Dladla case here.
  • Read more about the Dladla case here.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) acts for Yolanda Dyantyi in a number of matters concerning her participation in anti-rape protests on the Rhodes University campus during April 2016. Our client has instructed us to issue this statement to the media in response to the recent online campaign #RhodesWar.

Between 17 and 20 April 2016, a large number of Rhodes students participated in a campus-based protest against what they saw as an entrenched culture of rape and sexual violence against women. The protestors believed that the University’s management and administration had enabled a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women were both permitted and condoned. The protestors also believed that the University enabled this culture by permitting a number of practices which promoted gender-based violence.

One example of this culture was the fact that University’s own website described first year women students as “seals” that are ripe for “clubbing” (a euphemism for older male students aggressively pursuing sexual contact with younger women). The University also promoted “serenades” in which male students randomly select young women to take back to their dormitory rooms, in circumstances where there is no doubt that sexual contact is expected and condoned.

In March 2017, eleven months after the April 2016 protests concluded, the University instituted disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Dyantyi. When the time came for the disciplinary inquiry to hear Ms. Dyantyi’s evidence, the Chairperson of the proceedings postponed the inquiry to a date on which he knew none of Ms. Dyantyi’s legal representatives could attend the inquiry, because they had competing commitments in court. SERI made every effort to persuade the Chairperson to continue the proceedings on a date that Ms. Dyantyi could give evidence with the assistance of her legal representatives.

Ms. Dyantyi was convicted in her absence, and permanently excluded from the University. All of her most recent examinations were invalidated. Her transcript was endorsed with the words “Unsatisfactory Conduct: Student found guilty of assault, kidnapping, insubordination and defamation”.

As far as SERI has been able to ascertain, this is the harshest penalty the University has imposed for ten years for any offence whatsoever, including rape and sexual violence on campus. The endorsement on Ms. Dyantyi’s transcript is unusual. Ordinarily, a student’s transcript does not record disciplinary offences of which she has been convicted. In setting out the offences of which Ms. Dyantyi has been found guilty, the transcript will effectively prevent Ms. Dyantyi from registering elsewhere. SERI has advised Ms. Dyantyi that this sanction is wholly unreasonable and unlawful.

SERI believes that the University’s treatment of Ms. Dyantyi has been disproportionate, unfair and unlawful.

  • Read full statement here.

 

 

SERI's December 2017 Newsletter is out! The last five months have been a busy period for us. We have been involved in a number of ground-breaking cases dealing with housing, evictions, informal settlements and political space. We have also launched a number of research reports and guides covering housing rights, evictions and relocations and student protests. 

  • Read the SERI newsletter online here.
  • Subscribe to SERI's mailing list here.

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