- Persistence of Apartheid planning perpetuates unemployment crisis, report finds (15 December 2016). SERI has published the results of our research on the relationship between a person’s place of residence and their chances of getting a job in South Africa’s major cities. Edged Out: Spatial Mismatch and Spatial Justice in South Africa’s Main Urban Areas presents overwhelming evidence of unjust urban planning in South African cities. It finds that housing for the poor tends to be located far away from job opportunities. This creates a poverty trap, in which poor people are confined to residence in areas least likely to provide them with the opportunity to get a job and support themselves. >>Read the full media alert here.
- High Court lifts Rhodes protest crackdown (1 December 2016). The Grahamstown High Court dismissed Rhodes University’s application for an order regulating student protest on its campus. The University wanted to finalise an interim order it was granted in April 2016, when a group of at least 200 students started a spontaneous protest against what they say is a culture of rape and sexual violence at Rhodes. >>Read the full statement here.
- Wits students left without relief as interdict application dismissed (3 November 2016). The Gauteng Local Division of the High Court dismissed an application of more than 25 students of the University of the Witwatersrand to interdict the University and restrict it from commencing its year-end examinations, and postponing examinations by at least two weeks. Their preparations had been curtailed, through no fault of their own, by recent #FeesMustFall protests on campus and the University’s response to them. >>Read the full statement here.
- Western Cape farm workers victorious in Labour Appeal Court (22 August 2016). The Labour Appeal Court upheld an appeal against the Labour Court’s refusal of the Robertson Abattoir workers’ claims for unfair dismissal. For the past six years, the Commercial Stevedoring and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) has pursued the case on behalf of 39 workers dismissed by Robertson Abattoir (now Robertson Farm Assured Meat). >>Read the full statement here.
- SERI launches three new research publications (28 July 2016). On Friday 29 July SERI is launched three new research publications drawing on our clients’ experiences of the right of access to adequate housing in different contexts in South Africa, the implications of our research findings and our litigation experiences. SERI released two new Community Practice Note series and our first Policy Brief. >>Read the full media alert here.
- Court saves 463 people from eviction in Jeppestown (15 June 2016). The Johannesburg High Court yesterday rescinded an eviction order against 463 Jeppestown residents. The notice directing the residents to appear in court told them that they should appear on 17 February 2015, but the notice was only served on 2 March 2015. The eviction hearing actually took place on 24 March 2015. None of the residents attended the hearing. Acting Judge Naude rescinded and set aside the eviction order. >>Read the full statement here.
- SERI launches new sale in execution guide (3 June 2016). Entitled ‘Preventing or Opposing a Sale in Execution: A Legal Guide’, the guide is a resource for individuals and households who are facing the threat of a sale in execution of their homes by creditors, as well as for community-based paralegals and lawyers who deal with sales in execution of people’s homes or bank repossessions. >>Read the full statement here.
- Constitutional Court upholds debtors’ rights (21 April 2016). The Constitutional Court held that a consumer who falls into arrears with her loan repayments can reinstate her credit agreement by bringing her account up-to-date, even after a bank has obtained judgment for the full amount she borrowed. >>Read the full statement here.
- 28 informal settlement residents granted bail after 3 weeks in prison (16 February 2016). The Lenasia Magistrates’ Court granted bail to 28 residents of Precast and Thembelihle informal settlements, who had been arrested in the wake of two days of protest in the area. Despite there being no evidence that any of the residents had committed any offence, they were detained for almost three weeks at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre (Sun City). >>Read the full statement here.
- Inner city building owner takes law into its own hands (8 December 2015). The High Court heard an urgent application brought by the residents of Chung Hua Mansions who were evicted from their homes during a police raid on 30 November. The raid formed part of the government’s now notorious “Operation Fiela”.The residents were rendered homeless as a result of the raid, and were forced to sleep on the streets outside of the building. >>Read the full statement here.
- Land Claims Court overturns unjust eviction (25 October 2015). The Land Claims Court set aside an order granted in the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court for the eviction of 79 long-term residents living on farmland in Honeydew. The Land Claims Court replaced the order of the Magistrate with an order dismissing the eviction application. The judgment rejects the tick-box approach of owners to eviction applications and the perfunctory acceptance of these arguments by judicial officers. >>Read the full statement here.
- Sunnyside 7 released (25 October 2015). SERI lawyers secured the release of six students and one informal trader who were arrested after the Police opened fire with teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on students protesting outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria. >>Read the full statement here.
- SERI demands the release of the Sunnyside seven (24 October 2015). Seven students were held without charge at the Sunnyside police station after being arrested in the aftermath of national student action at the Union Buildings. SERI demanded that the seven students at Sunnyside police station, and any others in detention after the mass action, be appropriately charged by the police or immediately released. >>Read the full statement here.
- Marikana families left in the dark despite President’s assurances to the media (9 October 2015). The Minister of Police has indicated that he intends to oppose the damages claims lodged on behalf of the families of the miners killed at Marikana in August 2012. The families filed claims in August 2015 against the Minister for compensation and a formal apology for the loss of their loved ones.Despite promising the settle the matter, the Minister has now indicated that he intends to oppose it. >>Read the full statement here.
- Regulation of informal trade in Johannesburg in disarray, but alternative vision is possible (29 September 2015). SERI has released a new research report. The report, entitled ‘The End of the Street?’ Informal Traders’ Experiences of Rights and Regulations in Inner City Johannesburg, documents the realities of informal trade, and the ways in which it is regulated, in Johannesburg’s inner city.The report presents two sets of findings. The first concerns the realities of informal trade regulation.The second set of findings presents some of the lived realities of traders making a living in the inner city. The report’s primary conclusions are that there is considerable scope for the City to improve the management of informal trade, and that any restriction or prohibition on trade is likely to negatively affect the way that traders make a living as it undermines the benefits that traders derive from permanence. >>Read the full statement here.
- CSAAWU’S doors will stay open (23 September 2015). On 14 August, the Constitutional Court dismissed the Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union’s (CSAAWU) applications for leave to appeal against two costs orders handed down in the Cape Town Labour Court. The costs orders threatened to close CSAAWU down. Although the Constitutional Court did not itself order costs against the union, as a result of its decisions, the costs orders of the Labour Court have remained in place. CSAAWU has reached agreements with the farmers in whose favour the orders were granted, and the litigation together with the publicity around it has enabled CSAAWU to raise funds which will allow it to pay off the once debilitating costs orders. CSAAWU continues its fight and will stay open. >>Read the full statement here.
- Constitutional Court dismisses Legal Aid appeal (22 September 2015). The Constitutional Court dismissed Legal Aid SA’s final bid to overturn the Pretoria High Court judgment directing it to provide legal aid to the miners who were arrested and injured after the Marikana massacre. The High Court judgment, handed down in 2013, enabled the miners to participate in the Marikana Commission of Inquiry by requiring that their legal representatives be funded at legal aid rates. The miners were, at the time, the only party before the Commission whose legal representatives were not paid for by the state or private foundations. SERI acted for the families of the deceased miners and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at the Constitutional Court. >>Read the full statement here.
- SERI participates in historic first decision of UN committee on social rights (22 September 2015). On 18 September 2015, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) considered South African and international jurisprudence in issuing its first recommendations. The Committee found that Spain violated the right to housing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), by failing to provide effective protections and remedies to consumers in mortgage foreclosure proceedings. SERI, with partners from the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR-net), was admitted to the case as third-party interveners. In making its recommendations, the Committee referred extensively to the South African jurisprudence developed around foreclosure proceedings. Among the cases the Committee relied on in its decision are Gundwana v Steko Development, Kubyana v Standard Bank, and Absa v Lekuku. SERI was centrally involved in each of these cases, acting for the appellant in Gundwana and Kubayna, and as amicus curiae at the request of the Court in Lekuku. >>Read the full statement here.
- Court reverses Hillbrow eviction (10 September 2015). 147 men, women and children returned to their homes after their eviction from a block of flats in Hillbrow, was reversed in urgent court. The eviction took place after the City of Johannesburg sold the property to recover outstanding rates and taxes. However, the residents were given no notice of the sale, no notice of the application for their eviction, and no notice of the date on which they were supposed to appear in court. An eviction order was granted in their absence. The court said that the residents' rights to be restored to their homes while they challenged the eviction order were "unassailable" and criticised the failure to ensure that the residents were notified that they were under threat of eviction. >>Read the full statement here.
- Durban High Court stops thousands of evictions (20 August 2015). Judge Mokgohloa, sitting in the Durban High Court handed down judgment in MEC for Human Settlements, KwaZulu Natal v. eThekwini Municipality and Others. The Judge struck down a temporary court order that had been used by the MEC and the Durban Municipality to evict thousands of poor people from informal settlements in Durban. The court confirmed evictions are governed by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) and section 26 (3) of the Constitution. The process prescribed by those instruments must be followed before the eviction of unlawful occupiers is undertaken. PIE and the Constitution are intended to respect the dignity of the poor, and ensure that alternative accommodation is provided where needed. The interim order granted to the MEC was not sought or granted under PIE, nor could it be, because it allowed for people to be evicted without court oversight and without notice. >>Read the full statement here.
- Constitutional Court dismisses appeals against Labour Court's costs orders (14 August 2015). The Constitutional Court has dismissed applications for leave to appeal against two costs orders handed down by Judge Steenkamp in the Cape Town Labour Court. Judge Steenkamp’s orders were made against a group of farm workers and their union, the Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union (CSAAWU) after the workers and CSAAWU failed in their bids to challenge a series of unfair dismissals. >>Read the full statement here.
- Families of Marikana mineworkers file civil claims against Government (11 August 2015). The families of the 37 mineworkers killed at Marikana on 13 and 16 August 2012 have filed civil claims against the Minister of Police in the High Court in Pretoria. The families are claiming compensation for the loss of the financial support of the deceased to their families, grief and emotional shock caused by the death of their husbands, fathers, brothers and caregivers, the medical expenses of psychological and psychiatric treatment, and their loss of family life and parental care. The families also claim a formal apology from the Minister of Police for the loss of their loved ones. An apology will bring much needed closure to the families who feel they have been have been abandoned by the South African government. >>Read the full statement here.
- Tembisa shack-residents challenge housing scam (2 June 2015). The Ekurhuleni Concerned Residents Association (ECRA) and 133 of its members have launched an application in the Pretoria High Court to correct widespread misallocation of state-subsidised housing in Tembisa. Each of the residents was approved and allocated a particular state-subsidised stand, only to find other people living there when they tried to move in. As a result, the residents cannot take possession of the stands allocated to them. By fraud or negligence, those stands have been given to other people, unknown to the residents. >>Read the full media advisory here.
- Families request Marikana Report be released by Friday (27 May 2015). SERI and the LRC issued a press statement regarding the publication of the Marikana Commission report. The organisations wrote to President Jacob Zuma expressing concern that the report has not yet been publically released, despite the clear public interest in it being promptly made available. They have requested that the President release the report by 1 June 2015 and have also written to Judge Ian Farlam requesting that, in the event that the President refuses to release the report by 1 June, he and his fellow Commissioners release the report. >> Read the full statement here.
- Supreme Court puts public officials on the hook (18 March 2015). The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in the Hlophe case has confirmed that municipal officials can face contempt of court proceedings if they fail to ensure that municipalities obey court orders. The SCA was ruling on an appeal by the City of Johannesburg against an order of the Johannesburg High Court made in April 2013, which directed Mayor Parks Tau, City Manager Trevor Fowler and former Director of Housing Thabo Maisela, to take all the steps necessary to provide 180 poor residents with alternative accommodation, failing which they could be sued for contempt. >>Read the full statement here.
- Thembelihle arrested granted bail after 5 days in jail (3 March 2015). 33 residents of Thembelihle informal settlement walked free having been detained for 5 days. The residents were arrested for public violence during a protest at the settlement last Thursday. Many of the residents deny that they were even part of the protest. They say they were arrested indiscriminately because their houses happened to be near the site of the protest. >>Read the full statementhere.
- SERI welcomes SA government's ratification of ICESCR (19 January 2015). SERI is delighted by the South African government's ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which will enter into force on 12 April 2015. The South African government signed the ICESCR twenty years ago and while it has taken its time to ratify the ICESCR, it is an important step forward that the ICESCR will now have greater force. >>Read the full statement here.
- Court refuses to evict pensioners after owner’s “intimidatory tactics” (16 January 2015). The South Gauteng High Court dismissed an eviction application against two 71 year-old pensioners who have lived and worked on land in Fairlands, Johannesburg for 44 years. Acting Judge Paul Carstensen found in the Matlaila case that the owner of the land had not proven that an eviction order would be just and equitable. He dismissed the application with costs. >>Read the full press statement here.
- Families to make closing arguments before the Marikana Commission (10 November 2014). On Tuesday 11 November 2014 the families of 36 of the deceased miners killed at Marikana in August 2012 will deliver closing arguments before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, instructed by SERI, will argue on behalf of the families. It has been a long and painful journey for the families. They have attended the Commission for two years in order to discover the truth about what happened to their loved ones, and why. They have come to a number of conclusions about what happened between 13 and 16 August 2012, and who bears responsibility for the massacre that occurred. >>Read the full press statement here.
Protest is the “only language government understands” (16 September 2014). On 16 September SERI launched a new research report entitled An Anatomy of Dissent and Repression: The Criminal Justice System and the 2011 Thembelihle Protest. At the event the author of the report, SERI researcher Michael Clark, explained how in September 2011 residents of Thembelihle informal settlement in Lenasia took to the streets, frustrated by an unaccountable and unresponsive local government. Their demands were dismissed and instead they were met with a forceful police clamp-down. In the aftermath of the protest, arrest and criminal prosecution were used to harass and intimidate community members and to target community leaders. >>Read the full press statement here.
- SCA dismisses Legal Aid SA’s appeal in Marikana funding case (8 September 2014). On 8 September the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed Legal Aid SA’s appeal against the High Court’s decision in Magidiwana v President of the Republic of South Africa handed down last year. The SCA indicated that it will give full reasons for its decision at a later stage. It made its ruling after asking the parties to address it solely on whether the appeal would have any practical effect or result. The injured and arrested miners, together the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the families of the deceased miners argued that Legal Aid SA’s promise to fund the miners meant that the appeal would have no practical effect. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- Marikana legal funding: correcting inaccurate reports (20 July 2014). SERI corrects an inaccurate and misleading report by reporter Loyiso Sidimba in the Sunday Independent which claims that lawyers for the arrested and injured miners at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry "received about R5.13 million in legal fees". This is not true. The papers submitted to the Supreme Court of Appeal by Legal Aid SA in fact state that no money has yet been paid to the miners, but that up to R5.13 million has been budgeted in terms of a contract that has yet to be concluded between Legal Aid SA and the miners' legal team. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- City of Joburg leaves poor out in the cold (10 June 2014). Over 1 000 occupiers of several inner city Johannesburg buildings issued an application in the Johannesburg High Court, requesting the court to declare that the City of Johannesburg has failed to discharge its obligations, under section 26(2) of the Constitution, to provide temporary accommodation to people facing eviction. The application is a response to the City’s attempt to get an order suspending nearly 30 pending evictions, because it does not have land or buildings available to provide for people who are evicted. The City claims this inability to provide alternative accommodation is due to it awaiting the outcome of the Dladla matter, in which residents of alternative accommodation provided by the City are challenging the lawfulness of the rules in the accommodation. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- Concourt slams “unacceptable” eviction (6 June 2014). On 6 June 2014, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in Zulu and 389 Others v eThekwini Municipality and Others (Zulu). SERI represents Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali) who acted as amicus curiae in the case. The case concerned the interpretation of a court order obtained by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works on 28 March 2013 from the Durban High Court. The order was used to justify the Cato Crest evictions in 2013. SERI welcomes the Court’s finding that the order amounted to an eviction order, and its finding that the eThekwini Municipality had used the order to evict people. The municipality had argued that the order could not and was not used to evict people, even though the municipality had relied on it to evict the appellants 25 times. The court correctly found this dishonest submission to be “unacceptable”. SERI also welcomes the judgment of van der Westhuizen J, which found that the order was invalid because it was granted in breach of the Constitution. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- Marikana Commission Terms of Reference amended (10 May 2014). 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 any government department or agency in relation to the incident. 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 made enquiries with the Commission, seeking clarification on the meaning and effect of deleting paragraph 1.5 of the Terms of Reference, and were given a number of assurances. >>Read the full SERI press statement here.
- Con Court condemns Operation Clean Sweep as an act of "humiliation and degradation" (4 April 2014). The Constitutional Court today handed down a judgment explaining its reasons for ordering the City of Johannesburg to allow informal traders to return to their stalls in the inner city of Johannesburg on 5 December last year. Evoking the spirit of Nelson Mandela, the Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke condemned “Operation Clean Sweep” as an act of “humiliation and degradation” which rendered thousands of people, and their children, destitute. >>Read the full SERI press release here.
- Legal NGOs welcome UN Human Rights Council resolution on adequate housing (28 March 2014). SERI, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and the Community Law Centre (CLC) welcome the news from Geneva that a key United Nations (UN) resolution on the right to housing was adopted this morning at the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council. The resolution is important as it reiterates the international human rights law commitment to safeguard the right of access to adequate housing. It recognises that security of tenure enhances the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing and is significant to the enjoyment of many other socio-economic and civil and political rights. The resolution specifically reinforces safeguards against arbitrary eviction or the displacement of people with insecure tenure. >>Read the full SERI, CALS and CLC press statement here.
- Nkandla report’s story: Taking from the poor to give to the rich (20 March 2014). On 19 March 2014, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her report on the investigation into the upgrades made to President Jacob Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla. SERI notes with particular concern the finding that the Department of Public Works reallocated public funds earmarked for inner city regeneration and dolomite rehabilitation initiatives to the upgrades at the President’s residence. The report states that this “negatively impacted” on service delivery projects and constitutes improper conduct and maladministration. The ‘reallocation’ of public funds that could significantly alleviate the dire consequences of socio-economic disadvantage, poverty and inequality in this manner is deeply troubling. The government regularly asserts that it does not have the resources to fulfil its constitutional obligations to fully realise socio-economic rights. This report highlights that these claims are often disingenuous. >>Read the full press statement here.
SERI launches two research publications (27 February 2014). SERI releases two research reports which highlight the failure of the Johannesburg municipality to pursue just, humane and inclusive regeneration policies in its inner city. The first of SERI’s two reports 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.The second SERI report shows that, there are few formal housing options available to low-income and poor inner city residents. >>Read the full press release here.
- Beatrice Mtetwa arrest a threat to the rule of law, Commonwealth mission finds (24 February 2014). The arrest and detention of Zimbabwean attorney Beatrice Mtetwa breached the rule of law, a Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) mission has found. The CLA’s final report on the trial observation mission undertaken to monitor the trial of the Zimbabwean human rights lawyer was released today. The mission was conducted between March and November 2013 by a trial observer team comprising staff at SERI. >>Read the full press state statement here.
- Credit consumers left in distress by Con Court judgment (20 February 2014). SERI has taken note of the Constitutional Court’s decision in Kubyana v Standard Bank, handed down on 20 February 2014. SERI respects the decision of the Court. However, we remain concerned that the decision may not do enough to protect distressed consumers who have fallen into arrears on their credit agreements and who are genuinely in need of debt counselling and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. These options are a debtor’s last hope of consensually resolving disputes which may result in money judgments being taken against them, perhaps leading to the loss of a home, or other property vital to their well-being. >>Read the full press release here
- Slovo Park informal settlement goes to court to compel upgrading (4 February 2014). On 30 January 2014 the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), represented by SERI, launched an application in the Johannesburg High Court on behalf of approximately 7 000 people (3 709 households) living at the Slovo Park informal settlement in Johannesburg. The Slovo Park residents want the court to review and set aside the City of Johannesburg’s failure to take a decision to make an application to the Gauteng Department of Local Government and Housing for funding to upgrade the informal settlement in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP). >>Read the SPCDF and SERI press statement here.
- High Court sets aside FNB’s sale of mortgaged home, 13 December 2013. On 12 December 2013 the Pretoria High Court set aside the sale-in-execution of a mortgaged home belonging to a Soweto family. While the family had paid the entire amount due to the bank, it sold their home on public auction anyway. By SERI’s calculations (which FNB did not dispute) between the date on which summons was issued and the date on which the sale took place the Thwalas paid about R500 more than the total value of the default judgment, plus interest and other payments to FNB. >>Read the press release here.
- JMPD officials disregard Con Court order, assault and arrest SERI lawyer, 5 December 2013. Nomzamo Zondo, an attorney from SERI who represents the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and over 1 200 informal traders, was arrested on the afternoon of 5 December by Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers in the Johannesburg CBD. Her arrest came only a few hours after the Constitutional Court interdicted the City of Johannesburg from interfering with lawful informal traders’ rights to trade in the inner city, pending the hearing of an application to the High Court to review the decision to implement the so-called Operation Clean Sweep campaign in the inner city. >>Read the full press statement here. Update: Nomzamo was eventually charged with public violence and interfering with the duties of a uniformed police officer, and granted prosecutorial bail of R500 late on Thursday evening. The following morning all the charges against her were dropped.
- Informal traders appeal to Con Court, 2 December 2013. The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and over 1 200 informal traders have applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the South Gauteng High Court order handed down on 27 November, which struck the traders’ case from the roll. SAITF wants the matter dealt with urgently and for the Constitutional Court to place the traders – who have always traded lawfully – in a position to continue with their lawful business activities, pending the determination of the appeal (either to the Constitutional Court or to a Full Bench of the High Court). This trading would occur in line with the City of Johannesburg’s Informal Trading By-Laws at the locations the traders occupied immediately before their removal in terms of Operation Clean Sweep. >>Read the full SERI press release here.
- Informal trader beaten by JMPD officers, 25 November 2013. On the afternoon of Friday 22 November 2013, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officials assaulted and arrested a number of informal traders in the inner city of Johannesburg. A female trader from Mozambique, who is currently represented by SERI, witnessed the assaults and was subsequently beaten and arrested. This press statement contains an account of the incident drawn from her statement. She remains anonymous as she will be laying charges against the police and fears being victimised. We refer to her in this press statement as “Belinda”. >>Read the press statement (25 November 2013) here.
- SAITF in urgent court bid to assist informal traders, 20 November 2013. SERI has launched an urgent application in the South Gauteng High Court for an order returning 1211 informal traders to the streets. The application asks that the traders be permitted to trade in a manner consistent with the City’s Informal Trading By-Laws, at the locations they occupied immediately before their removal. The traders further request that the City be directed to re-erect the trading stalls removed, or alternatively to permit them to continue trading on the sites where those stalls previously stood. >> Read the SERI press release (20 November 2013) here.
- Informal traders to take City of Joburg and JMPD to court over ‘Operation Clean Sweep’, 14 November 2013. The South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and 1 500 informal traders sent a letter to the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) demanding that they be permitted to return to trading in the inner city. SAITF and the traders intend to bring an application to the Johannesburg High Court to review the decision to forcibly remove them and thousands of other traders under the auspices of the City’s ‘Operation Clean Sweep.’ >>Read the press release (14 November 2013) here.
- SERI condemns the crack-down on informal traders in inner city Johannesburg, 23 October 2013. SERI notes with concern the sustained crack-down on informal traders that has taken place since 10 October under the auspices of a "clean up" initiative of the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg. These operations were characterised by Metro Police officials forcing thousands of informal traders to vacate their trading posts, as well as the demolition of stalls, confiscation and impounding of goods and physical assaults on informal traders. These operations threaten the essential livelihood opportunities and dignity of informal traders and should be condemned in the strongest terms. >>Read the press release here.
- Durban officials face imprisonment for Cato Crest evictions, 9 September 2013. On Friday 6 September 2013 Abahlali baseMjondolo and residents of Cato Crest informal settlement approached the Durban High Court for a third time, to prevent the eThekwini Municipality from illegally destroying their homes. They applied for a contempt of court order against eThekwini Municipality. The Durban High Court granted a rule nisi (an interim order to be confirmed at a later date) which compels the Municipal Manager of eThekwini Municipality and the Head of the Land Invasion Unit to appear at court on Thursday 12 September to explain why they should not be imprisoned for 30 days for allowing illegal evictions to continue at Cato Crest in contempt of an order obtained on 2 September which prohibited the demolition of shacks. >>Read the press release here.
- eThekwini Municipality goes rogue, illegally evicts residents, 2 September 2013. eThekwini Municipality has been evicting residents Of Cato Crest informal settlement in violation of an undertaking it made to the Durban High Court. Following illegal evictions at the settlement, the residents, together with Abahlali baseCato Crest (a newly formed branch of shackdwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo), approached the Durban High Court for an urgent interdict stopping the municipality and KZN MEC for Human Settlements from demolishing shacks at Cato Crest. On 23 August 2013, the residents’ application for interim relief was granted, following an undertaking by the state to the court that it would halt evictions at Cato Crest pending the finalisation of the application for a final order. >>Read the press release here.
- Report argues housing 'queue' is a myth, 29 August 2013. On 29 August 2013, the Community Law Centre (CLC) and SERI officially launched a research report entitled 'Jumping the Queue', Waiting Lists and Other Myths: Perceptions and Practice around Housing Demand and Allocation in South Africa. >>Read the CLC and SERI press release here.
- Tribunal: Landlords cannot profit off electricity ‘service charges', 18 June 2013. The Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal has handed down an important ruling for tenants, finding that the charging of an electricity "service charge" violates the Gauteng Unfair Practices Regulations and amounts to a profit which the landlord is not entitled to make. >>Read the SERI press release here.
- Mayor of Joburg warned to house poor or face being held in contempt of court, 3 May 2013. 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. >>Read the SERI press release here.
- Minister of Police to pay damages to Abahlali members for police brutality, 22 April 2013. 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. >>Read the SERI and Abahlali media statement here.
- Statement on behalf of the deceased miners’ families represented before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, 15 March 2013. The SERI Law Clinic has been instructed to release a statement on behalf of the families of the striking miners killed by the police on 16 August 2012. The families do not accept National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s “condolences”, offered before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry on 14 March 2013. They demand a full-throated apology from Commissioner Phiyega and an acknowledgement of responsibility for having killed their family members. >>Read the press statement here.
- Families of Marikana deceased demand payment from SAPS, 28 February 2013. The families of those killed during the Marikana massacre are demanding payment from the SAPS for loss of support and general damages incurred as a result. They have given notice of their intention to sue the Minister of Police and the National Police Commissioner for damages. >>Read the press release here.
South Africa to ratify international socio-economic rights convenant, 12 October 2012. Human rights groups welcome Cabinet’s approval of South Africa’s ratification of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Almost eighteen years after the South African government signed the ICESCR, Cabinet has approved that South Africa will ratify the ICESCR. This important decision to ratify, which means that the ICESCR will be legally binding, was included in a statement issued yesterday on Cabinet’s ordinary meeting held in Pretoria on 10 October 2012. >>Read the press statement by the ICESCR Ratification Campaign here.
Kennedy Road shackdwellers sue police, 27 September 2012. Former residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban are pursuing damages claims against the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, three years after the police failed to protect them from an armed gang that invaded the settlement in September 2009. This is an important case because it holds the police responsible to prevent violence perpetuated by others when it is in a position to do so. >>Read the statement here.
Victory for forgotten shack dwellers, 19 September 2012. Following a hearing on 17 September 2012, Acting Judge Nigel Hollis in the Durban High Court granted an order in which he requires the Mayor of eThekwini, the City Manager and the Director of Housing to take all the necessary steps, within three months, to provide permanent housing to 37 poor families living in a transit camp near KwaMashu, Durban. This is line with a court order than was granted in 2009, which stated that the municipality should provide housing to the evicted occupiers by no later than a year from the date of the court order. This never happened and the families have been living at the camp ever since. If the municipal office-bearers do not comply with the High Court order, they may be held in contempt and fined or imprisoned. >>Read the media statement by SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo here.
Court rules on duties of courts, municipalities in eviction proceedings, 18 September 2012. SERI has contributed to an important SCA decision that establishes an appropriate set of procedures and standards in eviction proceedings which might lead to homelessness. On 14 September 2012, the SCA handed down judgment in the Tikwelo House case. >>Read the media statement here.
SERI to represent AMCU at the Marikana Commission, 14 September 2012. SERI has been instructed to represent the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. >>Read the media statement here.
Civil Society Statement Regarding the Killings at Marikana: A Demand for Justice and Truth, 3 September 2012. SERI, together with a number of other human rights and legal CSOs, published a joint statement on the killings at Marikana, commenting on the current status of the arrested miners, the TORs of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry, and the nature of the IPID investigation. >>Read the joint statement here.
Systemic breakdown in City’s shelter policy, Judge told, 14 June 2012. In the new Chung Hua eviction application, the City of Johannesburg told the South Gauteng High Court that its registration process for homeless people had broken down. Judge Claassen ordered the City to provide 181 adults and 17 children living at Chung Hua Mansions with alternative accommodation. The occupiers are to be provided with temporary shelter, where they may live “secure against eviction”, by no later than 30 January 2013. The City must also report to the Court setting out the nature and location of the alternative accommodation to be provided by no later than 31 October 2012. >>Read the SERI press statement here and more on the case here.
Con Court stands up for consumers in Sebola judgment, 7 June 2012. The Constitutional Court acted to protect debtors who default on their credit agreements, handing down judgment in the Sebola case. Section 129(1) of the National Credit Act requires that debtors in default of a credit agreement be informed of their rights to debt counselling and other alternatives to enforcement of the agreement. The Court held that a notice under section 129(1) must be properly delivered to the consumer, who will be entitled to contest the enforcement of the credit agreement in the event that she did not receive the notice. Until today, it was sufficient for a credit provider to show that it had sent the notice to the consumer’s address. It did not matter if the consumer had not received it. >>Read the SERI press statement here and more on the case here.
Con Court hands down Saratoga judgment, 24 May 2012. The Constitutional Court handed down reasons for dismissing an application by the Saratoga Avenue occupiers for the variation of the eviction order granted by the Court in December 2011 in the Blue Moonlight case. The Court found that it is not the appropriate forum to enforce or vary the orders it gives on appeal, unless it declares a statute unconstitutional, or makes a detailed supervisory order which may require variation in light of changed circumstances. In other situations, the parties should approach the court in which the case was first considered e.g. the Johannesburg High Court. >>Read the SERI and CALS press release here. Read more on the Blue Moonlight case here.
Court declares Soweto woman customary law heir to prevent eviction, 9 May 2012. On 8 May 2012, the Johannesburg High Court declared that a girl taken in and treated as a daughter by a woman in Soweto could inherit as her customary law heir, even though she was never formally adopted. This outcome is important, as there is currently an eviction case in the Magistrate's Court pending the outcome of the woman's status. A relative is attempting to evict her and two other people living at the family home. >>Read the press release here.
High Court suspends Con Court's eviction order in Blue Moonlight case, 13 April 2012. The Johannesburg High Court has temporarily suspended the execution of the eviction order handed down by the Constitutional Court in December 2011 in the Blue Moonlight case. The order had directed the occupiers to vacate their homes by no later than yesterday, 15 April 2012. The High Court decision is a victory for the residents, because the City had not met the Constitutional Court’s deadline. The residents faced homelessness if evicted. The execution of the Constitutional Court eviction order is suspended until 2 May 2012 and the City is ordered to provide shelter to the occupiers by 30 April 2012. The City is required to report back to the residents on its progress, and a site visit has also been ordered to examine the proposed new accommodation. Read the CALS and SERI press release here.
- Magistrate strikes Thembelihle case from roll, 11 April 2012. On 10 April 2012, the Protea Regional Court struck from the roll a criminal case brought against 14 residents of Thembelihle informal settlement (including 3 minors). The residents were arrested in September 2011 following protests at the settlement over access to housing and electricity. Read the press release here and more on the case here.
ConCourt ruling could make residents homeless, 30 March 2012. The Constitutional Court dismissed an application by 100 poor inner city residents to give effect to the order it handed down in City of Johannesburg v Blue Moonlight Properties on 1 December 2011. Read the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and SERI press release here and more on the Blue Moonlight case here.
Con Court upholds tenants' rights, 13 March 2012. In a ground-breaking judgment in the Maphango case, the Constitutional Court affirmed the rights of tenants to challenge excessive rents and unfair lease terminations. In a majority judgment written by Cameron J, the Court found that that the High Court and SCA failed to give adequate weight to the Rental Housing Act, and that the landlord’s conduct may have amounted to an “unfair practice”. The Rental Housing Tribunal is empowered to determine whether a landlord committed an unfair practice, and it might accordingly have ruled in the tenants’ favour. The applicants are directed to lodge a complaint with the Tribunal before 2 May 2012. Read the SERI press release here and more on the case here.
City of Johannesburg set to breach Constitutional Court Order, 8 March 2012. The residents of Saratoga Avenue will return to the Constitutional Court to force the City to obey an order to provide them with temporary housing. The residents fear that the City has made no provision for them and intends to ignore the Constitutional Court’s order in City of Johannesburg v Blue Moonlight Properties, handed down on 1 December 2011. Read the SERI and CALS press release here and more on the case here.
eThekwini Municipality disobeys court order to provide housing and investigate corruption, 29 February 2012. SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) today published a press release highlighting the fact that the eThekwini Municipality has disobeyed a court order to provide housing to the 37 occupiers evicted from Siyanda informal settlement in 2009, and removed to the Richmond Farm transit camp. Read the press release here and more about the case here.