emergency housing - access to basic services - Marie Louise informal settlement - City of Johannesburg
Over 200 people live in the Marie Louise informal settlement, which is situated between a Pikitup dumping site and the Rand Leases mine in Roodepoort. Living conditions at the settlement are unhealthy and unsafe, and the occupiers do not have access to basic services, including water. The area is prone is flooding. The owner of the land, Rand Leases, has instituted eviction proceedings against the occupiers. SERI was approached to represent the occupiers in a process of 'meaningful engagement' with the City. This order had been handed down by the Johannesburg High Court.
On 15 April 2011 the parties went back to court and Judge Victor handed down an order declaring the occupiers to be in an emergency housing situation, and ordering the City to provide water and sanitation to the Marie Louise informal settlement community by 13 May 2011, and improved shelter by 15 July 2011. The City complied with part of the interim order, providing toilets and water tanks to the settlement. The City refused to provide any shelter to the occupiers, arguing that it would be wasteful to do so when the occupiers are to relocate in the near future in any event.
On 12 April 2013, Judge Victor granted an order stating that the City must meaningfully engage with the occupiers and 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 the previous orders (which included that the City must provide building materials to the occupiers), failing which the City may be held in contempt. Following the order, SERI was involved in a series of engagements exploring possible alternative accommodation options for the Marie Louise residents. These engagements did not result in agreement. The City did not accept Rand Leases’ proposal and intends instead to relocate the residents to a site known as "the Rugby Club Site" and incorporate them into its Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP). Rand Leases resists this. The residents have repeatedly expressed their willingness to relocate and have accepted the City’s tender in this regard. The City has since obtained consent the Rugby Club Site for use as emergency housing in terms of the applicable Town Planning Scheme. This is a prelude to the upgrading of the land for permanent housing in due course .
On 3 July 2013, the matter was argued again. Judge Victor reserved judgment on the issues of the land to which the residents are to be relocated; and the date on which the relocation and any subsequent eviction must take place.
In August 2014 the matter was heard again. At this stage of proceedings, the question is what constitutes just and equitable relief in terms of the PIE Act. Rand Leases seeks “an order that will oblige [the City] to have moved [the residents] from [the property] on a no-matter-what basis, to another location, by a date to be determined, regardless of whether or not [the City] is successful regarding the Rugby Club site”. The residents and the City agree that an order should be made which directs the City to relocate the occupiers to the Rugby Club Site, to provide the residents with water and sanitation, to provide the residents with the necessary building materials to construct their own shelters and to assist anyone incapable of building shelters for themselves.
On 22 August 2014 an order was granted by the High Court stating that the residents be moved to the Rugby Club site and provided with access to basic services as well as materials to rebuild their shacks, and assistance in rebuilding, if required.