On Thursday, 30 July 2020, SERI launched “Some Gains At Last”, a second edition of the Slovo Park Community Practice Note. This edition of the Slovo Park community practice note expands on the SPCDF’s struggle for incremental service delivery through the implementation of a court order.
The first edition of the community practice note, Slovo Park: Twenty Years of Broken Promises, summarises key events in the history of Slovo park from 1991 – 2014. It draws attention to community engagements between the SPCDF and government officials and politicians over a 20 year period to improve living conditions at Slovo Park, leading up to the community’s decision to litigate against the City of Johannesburg in 2015.
The second edition of the community practice note, Some Gains At Last, is a continuation of Slovo Park’s story since receiving a High Court Judgment from the Gauteng Local Division that ordered the City of Johannesburg to upgrade Slovo Park in situ. This edition documents the SPCDF’s strategies and tactics to implement their court order in collaboration with government through the establishment of a multi-stakeholder Task Team that facilitated the installation of electricity and continues to engage around the upgrading and layout plan.
Slovo Park, located in Johannesburg South adjacent to Nancefield, is an informal settlement that has experienced the neglect identified in the opening paragraph for twenty years. Only recently has this begun to shift, offering important insights for what constrains the use of the programme and what is required to implement it.
In 2014, the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) approached the Gauteng Local Division to oppose the City’s plan to relocate residents 11 kms away from the settlement. The SPCDF requested the court to compel the City to apply for funds from the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements, and implement the UISP, contained in the National Housing Code (2009).
In April 2016, the Gauteng High Court ordered the City of Johannesburg to upgrade the Slovo Park informal settlement through the UISP. The Melani judgment confirms that the UISP is binding on municipalities, and that local government’s failure or refusal to apply the policy is unlawful. It also confirms that the UISP applies to all informal settlements across South Africa and that relocation of residents must be turned to as a last resort.
2020 marks four years since Slovo Park informal settlement’s High Court victory. “Some Gains at Last” details the ground-breaking High Court judgment in 2016 and documents the concrete gains in Slovo Park informal settlement since. It speaks to the resilience of community leadership, supported by practitioners knowledgeable of the law and policy and planners who are brave enough to operate in built environments to build on what exists in order to improve the lives of people where they have made their homes. The nature and consistency of municipal leadership, and in particular the approach officials adopt, directly impacts on the progress or regression of informal settlement upgrading and the quality of policy implementation.