This guide sets out the rights of informal traders making a living in Johannesburg and the avenues available to ensure those rights are protected. Informal traders make a living in hostile environments, and local governments do not protect the rights of people making a living informally in the same way that they do those working in the formal sector. Despite this, informal traders have found novel ways to hold local authorities to account. If traders are aware of their rights and how to protect them, they are better placed to resist illegal harassment and clamp downs on their businesses.
This guide explains the sale-in-execution process and sets out what steps homeowners can take to avoid their houses being sold in execution. Courts are legally required to make sure that sales-in-execution follow the proper legal process and that the interests of both homeowners and banks are balanced and protected. The laws which regulate sales-in-execution are complex and come from many sources. This guide will help homeowners prevent sales-in-execution before they happen. It will also help homeowners oppose sales in execution if the process to repossess their home is already underway, or if they have already lost their homes. This guide is a resource for individuals and households who are facing the threat of a sale in execution of their homes, as well as for community-based paralegals and lawyers who deal with sales in execution of people’s homes or bank repossessions.
This guide explains your rights and the law regarding evictions, and gives practical advice on how to resist them. It is a resource for individuals, households and communities who are facing eviction from their homes, as well as for community-based paralegals, CBOs, social movements etc. The guide covers a number of different issues: what is an eviction, what the law says about evictions, when an eviction is unlawful, the lawful process for an eviction, how to oppose a lawful eviction, and how to resist an unlawful eviction. It is one of the resources in the Dear Mandela Toolkit, aimed at informing individuals, communities and CBOs of their rights.
This guide was developed to assist CBOs to organise effectively in order to facilitate social change in their communities. It draws on the experiences and practices of the South African shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) and examines a number of topics: what is a community organisation, principles of community organisation, establishing a CBO, community meetings, protests and gatherings, education programmes, sustaining a CBO, managing and sharing information, and networking and partnerships. This guide is one of the resources in the Dear Mandela Toolkit, aimed at informing individuals, communities and CBOs of their rights.
This pamphlet explains the process that a municipality must follow to legally prohibit informal trade in an area, or to relocate informal traders. It outlines what a municipality can do in terms of the Businesses Act 71 of 1991, what the process is that a municipality must follow to restrict or prohibit informal trade in an area, and what can be done to stop the restriction or prohibition of trading in an area. It is important to know about this process so as to ensure that a municipality follows the law, and that those who might be negatively affected are given a chance to participate and articulate their position. This pamphlet was written by Michael Clark. >>It can be downloaded here and should ideally be printed and folded.
This guide was developed by SERI and the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) based at Wits University, and is meant to help tenants. It is structured in three sections which cover the start, duration and end of the landlord-tenant relationship. In each of these sections there are a number of questions which tenants have often asked SERI or CUBES when they have come to us for support. The answers provided are meant to assist tenants to protect themselves against unfair and illegal conduct by landlords and to understand when the law says that a tenant is acting unfairly and illegally.
This booklet was developed because of difficulties faced trying to access laws and regulations on landlord-tenant relations and rental housing in South Africa. It includes the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999 and the Gauteng Unfair Practices Regulations, 2001, which are printed in full together with some guidelines to help readers navigate the content. The booklet is meant to be a companion to another SERI guide: A Tenant’s Guide to Rental Housing. The contents of both booklets have been approved by a lawyer who specialises in housing law. The booklet also provides summaries of two important Constitutional Court judgments which relate to rent increases and unfair lease terminations (Maphango), and electricity disconnections and notice (Joseph). It also summarises a recent decision of the Rental Housing Tribunal on electricity service charges (Jele).
This guide was developed by SERI and the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) based at Wits University. The law relating to sectional title schemes can be quite confusing. This guide tries to provide a brief description and explanation of the main legal issues that those involved in sectional title schemes should be aware of. This guide is structured in two sections. The first section deals with a number of key questions that are commonly raised by people involved in sectional title schemes. The answers provided are meant to assist sectional title owners, trustees and body corporates to better understand the legal rules that apply to sectional title schemes. The second section lays out how certain disputes and challenges that come up in sectional title schemes should be dealt with.
This resource guide aims to provide a simplified yet comprehensive overview of legislation, policy, programmes and practice relating to basic sanitation in South Africa. The guide focuses on access to household sanitation by poor communities. While some progress has been made since 1994 in terms of the provision of basic sanitation, challenges remain in the formulation and implementation of policy by municipalities. The guide does not claim to be an exhaustive analysis of legislation, policy and practice; however aims to outline the legislative and policy framework, highlight key challenges faced by various departments and communities, and provide a tool for those working on sanitation issues in South Africa e.g. social movements, community-based organisations (CBOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), lawyers, development practitioners, planners, government officials, academics, scholars etc. This guide was written by Kate Tissington.
This resource guide provides an overview of housing legislation, jurisprudence, policy, programmes and practice in South Africa since 1994. As with other socio-economic rights, the legislative and policy framework created by national government around housing is in fact quite progressive. However, implementation to date has been skewed and unable to address the land, housing and basic services needs of millions of poor South Africans who still lack adequate housing and access to water, sanitation and electricity. The report explicitly focuses on access to housing in the urban context. It provides a simplified yet comprehensive guide to policies, legislation, jurisprudence and practice in relation to urban housing in South Africa, which will hopefully be useful to a wide audience that includes social movements, CBOs, NGOs, lawyers, development practitioners, planners, government officials, academics, scholars etc. This guide was written by Kate Tissington.
This guide was developed by SERI, Section27 and Read Hope Philips Attorneys for use by activists working on local government issues in South Africa. It was written to empower activists and communities with the knowledge and tools to make local government work. The guide is designed to help activists understand local government and what it should be doing for every community; to monitor what local government is doing; to find out what to do when local government ignores the community or breaks the rules; to take action to enforce the rights to water, sanitation, electricity, housing, and health; and to find organisations that can assist on the ground. It shows how to engage government from inside, by participating in formal processes like budgeting, Integrated Development Planning (IDP) and elections. It also explains how to influence government from outside by going public through complaints, petitions, protest action, the media and the courts. For more information on the guide, visit the Local Government Action (LGA) site here.
South Africa’s cities are exclusionary spaces where the combined influences of unchallenged market forces and an Apartheid past mean poor people are confined to urban peripheries. They are also places of great dynamism and have significant potential for development. This report uses statistical analysis and national spatial data on local unemployment rates and the distribution of jobs to investigate spatial mismatch in South Africa’s major urban centres. It finds that there is a significant relationship between physical proximity to jobs and local unemployment rates, which implies that housing located far away from job opportunities acts as a poverty trap. The state and city governments should proactively intervene in housing markets to provide well located and affordable housing for the poor. This will be central to dismantling the “Apartheid city”, and moving towards urban spatial justice. In addition to the report, we have published a longer technical report, which includes a more in-depth presentation of our method and results. The report was written by Joshua Budlender and Lauren Royston. Joshua Budlender wrote the technical report. >>Read the report here, and read the technical report here.
This report, which builds on a first edition published in 2013, responds to the fact that neither property owners nor municipalities have fully come to terms with the significant paradigm shift in the law relating to eviction and urban regeneration. Despite years of litigation and a host of progressive court judgments, which have substantially contributed to the constitutional right of access to adequate housing, municipalities like the City of Johannesburg are still failing to fulfill their duties in relation to evictions and the provision of alternative accommodation. The report includes the latest developments in the law relating to housing rights and evictions and aims to highlight what they have contributed towards South Africa's housing and evictions jurisprudence. The first edition was written by Michael Clark. Stuart Wilson updated the case law and analysed its implications for the second edition. >>Read the full report here.
Tenure Security in Informal Settlements on Customary Land (December 2015)
SERI worked with the Housing Development Agency in the course of 2015 on a research project on securing tenure in informal settlements on customary land. It involved in-depth research in four informal settlements in four provinces and culminated in a set of recommendations for the HDA and other role players. One of the key issues identified in the research was lack of awareness about IPILRA rights (the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act) among the key stakeholders. >>Read the full report here.
This report provides a portrait of informal trade in the inner city of Johannesburg. In 2013, informal traders were evicted on a mass scale from the city’s streets as part of Operation Clean Sweep. The City of Johannesburg explained the operation as an effort to rid the inner city of crime and grime. During the eviction of traders, and the subsequent refusal to allow them to resume their trade, the City failed to follow the consultative processes required by the Businesses Act. The operation was later lambasted in a Constitutional Court judgment as an act of “humiliation and degradation”. This report investigates the regulation of informal trade in the inner city, as well as traders’ daily experiences of making a living there, in order to explore the impact of the prohibition and restriction of trade being pursued by the City. It argues that the regulation of informal trade is restrictive, non-consultative, orientated towards enforcement rather than development, and that it is instrumental in producing illegality. Further, by foregrounding the experiences of traders, it exposes major gaps in informal trading policy in the city and in the way in which informality has been imagined more broadly. The report argues that the challenges of informal trade can be addressed if the City improves the way in which it is regulated. There are, however, also deeper problems with the ways in which informality is imagined and approached by the City, and the state more generally. The report shows that an investigation into how prohibition or relocation may effect traders, as set out in the Businesses Act, is both possible and necessary. The report was written by Dennis Webster. >>Read the full report here and the summary here.
This research report sets out a body of evidence which aims to form the basis for engagement within the public interest legal service sector, and between the sector and the donors which support it. The report examines the context within which public interest legal services are provided, and discusses what the available literature and the informants interviewed during the research (including legal practitioners, NGOs, social movements, donors, and judges) say about how to characterize the value and impact of work within the sector. The report goes on to propose a multidimensional approach to characterising the value of public interest legal services – one which focusses on issues and the way that they are framed, and which tries to account for both the direct and indirect material impact as well as the broader political and symbolic value of particular interventions. The report also address the ways in which people and organisations within the public interest legal services sector work together, and what donors should do, should not do, and can do better, to facilitate co-ordination and collaboration that is appropriate to existing needs and practices. Finally the report identifies the unacceptably high cost of legal services as a major obstacle to the public interest legal services sector’s capacity to facilitate access to justice. SERI conducted extensive research and wrote the final report, which was funded by the RAITH Foundation and the Ford Foundation. >>Read the full report here, an executive summary here, and a short pamphlet summary of its key findings here.
This research report examines the week-long protest in Thembelihle, near Lenasia, Johannesburg which took place in September 2011. Frustrated by an unaccountable and unresponsive local government that frequently disregarded the community’s on-going demands for access to adequate basic services, Thembelihle residents took to the streets. Their demands, however, were dismissed by local and provincial government and met with a forceful police clamp-down. In the aftermath of the protest, arrest and criminal prosecution (often on frivolous charges) was used to harass and intimidate community members and to target community leaders, marking an alarming trend in which the criminal justice system is used by the government to suppress popular dissent. This highlights the growing trend of state repression of popular protests in poor urban areas and details how the state employs the criminal justice system to vilify, criminalise and suppress local communities advocating for socio-economic development. This report was written by Michael Clark. >>Read the full report (including an executive summary) here.
This research report highlights the gap in the demand for and supply of low-income rental accommodation in inner city Johannesburg. From research into the supply of formal rental accommodation in the inner city, it is clear that there are no permanent options available to those earning below R3 200 per month. This comprises almost 50% of all households in the inner city, who can afford rent of R900 or less per month. While there are a few institutions providing state-subsidised social housing at lower rentals, these institutions are extremely oversubscribed and there is almost no social housing actually available or affordable to people. The City argues that poor and low-income people should access informal accommodation in shared units at cheaper rentals. However even this informal accommodation is unaffordable to many people, with living arrangements overcrowded with a lack of privacy and security of tenure. The report argues that the most significant intervention the City should be making in the inner city is an affordable, accessible rental housing programme that responds to the needs of the majority of residents. This report was written by Kate Tissington. >>Read the full report here and the summary here.
The jurisprudence of the South African courts (especially the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal) has significantly contributed to the right of access to adequate housing, enshrined in section 26 of the Constitution. The courts have supplemented the legal framework by developing a number of progressive legal principles that should be upheld in eviction cases. The jurisprudence has therefore led to the development of a new cluster of relationships between the parties involved in eviction proceedings, a cluster of relationships that is characterised by a series of rights and obligations pertaining to various parties. Yet despite years of litigation and a host of progressive judgments municipalities have been hesitant, unwilling or unable to act on the obligations laid down in case law. It is amid this complexity that this report seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the jurisprudence on evictions and alternative accommodation, and the contingent obligations on municipalities in respect of the provision of alternative accommodation. It is hoped that the report might act as a to guide activists, communities and public interest law practitioners caught up in eviction related struggles, as well as local government officials who are tasked with devising and implementing housing policy. This report was written by Michael Clark. >>Read the report here and the summary here.
This research 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 - 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. The report also contains a survey of 137 municipal indigent policies in South Africa that highlights the numerous problems encountered with the implementation of indigent policies and the provision of FBS, including: targeting methods of FBS, municipal systems of indigent application, conditionalities attached to indigent status and FBS, and FBS amount provided. The report finds that indigent policies tend to restrict FBS to people who already own property, when the greatest need exists among those who do not. The application and documentation requirements to access indigency support are excessive, and the system is designed to restrict rather than expand access to FBS. While the professed aim of the indigent framework is to “target” the poor for the provision of basic services, its overall effect is to target them for exclusion. This report was written by Kate Tissington. >>Read the report here and the summary here.
This research report by the Community Law Centre and SERI analyses perceptions and practice around housing demand and allocation in South Africa, looking at the policies and processes operating at national, provincial and local level. Politicians and officials responsible for housing policy, at all levels of the state, have sought to create the impression that housing allocation is a rational process, which prioritises those in the greatest need, and those who have been waiting for a subsidised house the longest. The ideologically (and emotionally) charged concepts of ‘the waiting list’ and ‘the housing queue’ are emblematic of this. However, the situation is far more complicated. This report attempts to unpack some of the complexity and provide recommendations to government departments at all levels. It argues that the housing waiting list is a myth and should be eradicated from public discourse on housing in favour of a more nuanced way of characterising the rational, appropriate and humane responses to the broad range of housing needs in South Africa, which are not currently catered for by the market. >>Read the main report here and the executive summary here.
On 24 August 2012, 46 applicants who collectively refer to themselves as the “Forgotten Poor Black Citizens of South Africa” approached the Constitutional Court to make an application for direct access to the Court. The applicants sought an order from the Court setting aside a number of court orders from lower courts. The applicants declined the suggestion to obtain legal representation and, in order to further its understanding of the matter, the Court requested SERI and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) to conduct an initial investigation into the application and to compile a report of the findings. SERI and the LRC found that at the core, the majority of the matters the applicants seek to bring under appeal point very strongly to potentially far-reaching systemic failures in the process of evictions and executions concerning residential property.
This research report examines the impact of attempts to formalise street trading in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality since 2000 on the livelihood of traders, particularly female and migrant traders. Durban has been at the forefront of developing policies to manage and control informal economy activities; however, as the report notes, the effect of the push for formalisation is exclusionary and mimics the influx control regimes of the apartheid administration, which prevented black communities from pursuing business opportunities in central business districts. Such regulation has a particularly adverse effect on migrants and poor women, since they struggle to meet the requirements for registration, permits and rentals. The report provides some recommendations for policy-makers, city officials and traders. This report was written by Blessing Karumbidza.
A public rental housing programme is needed to bridge the gap between the demand for and supply of affordable rental accommodation in South Africa’s higher density urban centres. No formal rental options exist in either the social or private rental sector that accommodate the majority of poorer urban households' needs for rental accommodation. The up-front capital costs, ongoing operating expenditure, availability of building stock and management model are four aspects of the proposed programme addressed in this policy brief.
Community Practice Notes
Informal Settlement Series
SERI’s first community practice notes published in August 2014 are a series on informal settlement struggles for development, in which we examine how community-based organisations (CBOs) in four informal settlements in South Africa have organised and mobilised for development, particularly around the in situ upgrading of informal settlements. The series documents and analyses the relationship between evictions, development, community organisation and mobilisation, local politics, protest and the use of courts.
The four community practice notes making up the Informal Settlement Series are:
Makause: Resisting Relocation on the East Rand is the first in the Informal Settlement Series of community practice notes. Makause informal settlement is located in the suburb of Primrose in Germiston, which falls within the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in the Gauteng province. The settlement was established in the mid-1990s after retrenched mine workers occupied the abandoned vacant site, known as Driefontein Farm. Some residents have lived at the settlement for over 20 years.
This community practice note provides a brief background to the settlement; summarises the key events in the struggle to resist eviction and push for development at the settlement; and examines the strategies and tactics of the local community structure, the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo).
Rooigrond: Community Struggle in the North West is the second in SERI’s Informal Settlement Series of community practice notes. Rooigrond informal settlement is located in ward 27 of Mahikeng Local Municipality in the North West province. It is a rural settlement informally divided into two sections and comprising approximately 600 households (1 500 people) living mainly in shacks, but also in mud and brick houses.
This community practice note provides a brief background to the settlement; summarises the key events in the struggle to resist relocation and push for development in the context of broader political struggles, inter-governmental relations failures and protest in the North West province; and examines the strategies and tactics of the local community structure, the Rooigrond Committee.
Thembelihle: Engaging an Unresponsive State is the third in SERI’s Informal Settlement Series of community practice notes. Thembelihle informal settlement is located to the south-west of Johannesburg in the suburb of Lenasia, within the City of Johannesburg. The settlement was established on municipal-owned land in the mid-1980s by rural migrants and employees of a brick manufacturing company. Some residents have lived at the settlement for over 20 years. Currently between 7 000 and 8 000 households reside at the settlement.
This community practice note provides a brief background to the settlement; summarises the key events in the struggle to resist relocation and promote in situ upgrading; and examines the strategies and tactics of the local community structure, the Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC).
Slovo Park: Twenty Years of Broken Promises is the fourth in SERI’s Informal Settlement Series of community practice notes. Slovo Park informal settlement is located next to the Nancefield industrial area, between Eldorado Park and Bushkoppies in the City of Johannesburg. Slovo Park consists of around 3 700 households (approximately 7 000 people) living on more than 1 000 informal stands. The settlement was established in the early 1990s by people who moved to the site in search of land close to their jobs.
This community practice notes provides a brief background to the settlement; summarises the key events in the struggle to push for upgrading at the settlement; and examines the strategies and tactics of the local community structure, the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF).
Johannesburg Inner City Alternative Accommodation Series
SERI’s second set of Community Practice Notes published in July 2016 are a series on struggles for access to adequate housing in inner city Johannesburg. They highlight the histories of resisting evictions and the ongoing challenges faced by people in the relocation sites where alternative accommodation has been provided by the City of Johannesburg.
The three community practice notes making up the Informal Settlement Series are:
From San Jose to MBV 1 is the first in the Johannesburg Inner City Alternative Accommodation Series of community practice notes. San Jose is a block of flats in Berea, Johannesburg, which was built in the 1960s. The City of Johannesburg sought to evict the occupants before the Constitutional Court ordered it to provide them with alternative accommodation in a case known as Olivia Road. The City provided the occupants with alternative accommodation in two buildings, called MBV 1 and Old Perm.
This Community Practice Note documents experiences of residents at MBV 1. It provides a brief background to San Jose, highlights key events in the struggle against eviction, examines residents’ experiences of life at MBV 1 and provides some conclusions regarding the provision of alternative accommodation.
From Carr Street to MOTH is the second in the Johannesburg Inner City Alternative Accommodation Series of community practice notes. Residents of the Dina Glassware building, a derelict building on Carr Street in Newtown, resisted illegal attempts at eviction before they were fporced to relocate after a fire in the building. Residents were relocated to MOTH, a three floor building with a basement, with a large communal kitchen and dining room. Each floor is essentially a large empty hall with no sub-divisions.
This Community Practice Note provides a brief background to the Carr Street building, highlights key events in the struggle against eviction, examines residents’ experiences of life at the MOTH building and provides some conclusions regarding the provision of alternative accommodation.
From Saratoga Avenue to MBV 2 and Ekuthuleni is the third in the Johannesburg Inner City Alternative Accommodation Series of community practice notes. In the court cases known as Blue Moonlight and Dladla, the occupants of 7 Saratoga Avenue, a commercial property in Berea, were provided with alternative accommodation in two buildings, called MBV2 and Ekuthuleni.
This Community Practice Note provides a brief background to the Saratoga Avenue building, highlights key events in the struggle against eviction, examines residents’ experiences of life at MBV 2 and Ekuthuleni and provides some conclusions regarding the provision of alternative accommodation.
Informal Settlement Relocation Series
SERI’s third set of Community Practice Notes published in July 2016 are a series on informal settlement relocation. It highlights community struggles for access to adequate housing and how people experience the relocations that follow court processes regarding the provision of alternative accommodation.
The two community practice notes making up the Informal Settlement Series are:
From Marie Louise to "Rugby Club" is the first in the Informal Settlement Relocation Series of community practice notes. The Marie Louise informal settlement is located 15 kilometres to the west of the Johannesburg CBD. After resisitng various illegal evictions, the High Court ordered that the City of Johannesburg relocate the to alternative accommodation at a nearby site called "Rugby Club".
This Community Practice Note provides a brief background to the Marie Louise informal settlement, highlights key events in the struggle against eviction, examines residents’ experiences of the relocation to the Rugby Club site, and provides some conclusions regarding informal settlement relocation.
From Taylor Road to Ruimsig and Fleurhof is the second in the Informal Settlement Relocation Series of community practice notes. The residents of Taylor Road informal settlement in Honeydew were relocated to two seperate locations after being evicted by the owner of the property and lengthy engagements with the City of Johannesburg on the provision of alternative accommodation. The community engaged both in and out of the courts.
This Community Practice Note provides a brief background to the Taylor Road informal settlement, highlights key events in the struggle against eviction, examines residents’ experiences of the relocation to Ruimsig and Fleurhof and provides some conclusions regarding informal settlement relocation.
This paper was prepared for The Justice and Development Working Paper Series. It examines the role of paralegals in providing a crucial link to justice services and legal redress in South Africa, particularly for the rural poor. The paper begins with a historical overview of paralegal services in South Africa from the apartheid period to the present. The study then maps the current state of the paralegal sector, and provides detailed information on the structure and function of key organizations that provide paralegal services. Through an analysis of twelve case studies of paralegal-assisted cases, the report identifies facilitating and hindering determinants of community advice office (CAO) functions at both the institutional and organization level. This working paper was written by Jackie Dugard and Kay Drage.
This working paper was initially prepared by SERI for the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) as part of a larger project funded by the Ford Foundation. To read the CDE report entitled “Learning to Listen: Communicating The Value of Urbanisation and Informal Settlement Upgrading” see here. This working paper provides an up-to-date overview of the current landscape with regard to informal settlement upgrading in South Africa, particularly the linkages between informal settlement upgrading, livelihood creation, informal sector development and economic opportunity generation. The paper was written by Kate Tissington.
This Occasional Paper was prepared for the Municipal Services Project (MSP). The paper examines and draws lessons from water campaigns’ legal strategies around the world, some of which have transformed national laws and banned private provision, while others were partial victories. The paper looks at six cases of citizen-backed referenda and litigation, offering a comparative and global perspective. This paper was written by Jackie Dugard and Kay Drage.
This working paper presents a number of findings from ongoing research conducted by SERI on informal settlement upgrading and access to well-located land for the poor in South African cities. Specifically, this paper provides a detailed case study on Slovo Park informal settlement in Johannesburg, and the numerous attempts made by the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) to bring about upgrading and development at the settlement over the past 17 years. This working paper was written by Kate Tissington.
In 2010, SERI was approached by the Studies on Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) to undertake a review of housing policy in South Africa since 1994. This research formed part of a broader SPII research project to compile a measurement matrix of progressive realisation of the socio-economic rights enshrined in the South African Constitution.
Below is a list of other publications by SERI staff members, including academic and journal articles, book chapters, and books. They are categorised in terms of Securing a Home and Expanding Political Space.
Securing a Home
Expanding Political Space