On 3 May 2013, the Johannesburg High Court directed the Executive Mayor, City Manager and Director of Housing for the City of Johannesburg to personally explain why the City has not acted to provide shelter to the homeless, over 18 months after a Constitutional Court decision requiring it to do so. They must also take all the steps necessary to provide shelter to the 201 occupiers of Chung Hua Mansions at 191 Jeppe Street within two months. If they do not, they could be held in contempt, and be handed a fine or face jail time.
In granting the residents' application, Judge Satchwell said that the City could not simply "throw its hands up in horror" every time it had to house people about to be evicted. She also ordered the City to report on what it has done to respond to the Blue Moonlight judgment more generally. The report, which must be provided by 18 May 2013, must set out what budget the City has allocated to provide shelter to the residents and other poor people facing eviction, and whether it had set up a specific department to deal with people facing homelessness.
On 11 April 2013, SERI's senior researcher Kate Tissington was featured on the ProBono Law show on Radio Today, hosted by Patrick Bracher. Kate spoke about SERI's work on political space, specifically around protest and the criminal justice system. She outlined some of the cases in which SERI is involved, including the Marikana Commission and the Primrose and Thembelihle cases.
On 22 April 2013, the Durban High Court ordered the Minister of Police to pay a total of R165 000 in damages to two members of shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo - Sbu Zikode and Philani Zungu – and one resident of the Kennedy Road informal settlement. The order, made by agreement, comes after officers from Sydenham Police Station illegally arrested and assaulted Zungu while he and Zikode were travelling to a radio debate with the then KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Housing, Mike Mabuyakhulu, in September 2006. Other officers from Sydenham Police Station then illegally shot a woman at the Kennedy Road informal settlement. The woman was part of a crowd which had gathered to demonstrate against the arrest of Zikode and Zungu.
SERI has filed written submissions in the Jele case, in which we represent 80 tenants of a building in inner city Johannesburg in a hearing before the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal. Their complaint concerns the legality of a “service charge” levied by the landlord against them on their electricity accounts. This amount is over and above their consumption of their electricity. The first hearing was held on 20 February 2013, where the matter was postponed to 8 May. Read more on the case here.
On 12 April 2013, Judge Victor in the Johannesburg High Court granted an order stating that the City of Johannesburg must meaningfully engage with occupiers of the Marie Louise informal settlement and the land owner, Rand Leases, about the proposed alternative accommodation plans the latter has drawn up in a draft Memorandum of Understanding. The order also forces the City to comply with previous orders handed down (which included that the City provide the occupiers with building materials), failing which the City may be held in contempt. In the next few weeks SERI will be involved in a series of engagements exploring possible alternative accommodation options for the Marie Louise residents. The matter is back in court on 3 July 2013. Read more on the case here.