Transnet seeks eviction despite conceding that half the traders are not on its land
Lawyers from SERI appear in the Mahikeng High Court tomorrow, 6 September 2019, to defend dozens of Mogwase informal traders against eviction. The eviction is sought by Transnet, which says that the Mogwase traders are trading illegally on its land.
In their answering papers, however, the traders demonstrate that Transnet is mistaken about which land the traders are doing business on. Drawing on records from the Registrar of Deeds, SERI was able to show that the Mogwase traders are in fact on land immediately next to Transnet’s property, and not actually on it. In its reply and a subsequent site inspection, Transnet conceded that at least half of the Mogwase traders are not actually on its land. The Mogwase traders persist in their contention that none of them are actually trading on Transnet’s land.
Despite its concession, Transnet still seeks the eviction of all of the traders in its written argument. But SERI argues that an eviction order cannot be granted where there is no acceptable evidence that the traders are actually on Transnet’s land.
Evicting the traders will infringe their rights to dignity, which Transnet, as an organ of state, is constitutionally required to respect. The Mogwase traders have a right to trade to feed their families. If they could not trade, they would be destitute.
SERI will also argue that the traders’ rights can easily be protected through a project currently being implemented by the Moses Kotane Municipality, which will see the traders being given access to stalls on another site, hopefully by the end of October 2019. Despite being informed of the project, Transnet has pushed its case to court, and now seeks and eviction order. This, SERI will argue, is incompatible with Transnet’s constitutional obligations. Even if it owns the land it claims, Transnet should nevertheless be ordered to engage with the traders to ensure that they can relocate to the municipality’s stands and preserve their fragile livelihoods without interruption.
Zamantungwa Khumalo, the Mogwase traders’ attorney said: “Transnet’s conduct falls far short of what should be expected of an organ of state. In seeking to push the matter to court now, Transnet asks the High Court to destroy the fragile livelihoods of dozens of poor and vulnerable people and their families. There is simply no need to do this.”
On Thursday, 29 August 2019, SERI’s Lauren Royston presented at an Upgrading Informal Settlements Policy/Programme Reform workshop hosted by the Department of Human Settlements at the OR Tambo Garden Court hotel in Johannesburg. The 50 workshop participants included representatives from the National Department of Human Settlements, the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), architects, practitioners, NGOs, and community organisations.
The workshop was organised to review the current status of Upgrading Informal Settlement Programme (UISP) implementation and the proposal for the development of an UISP Grant which will consist of funding ring-fenced from the Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) and Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) exclusively for informal settlement upgrading.
Royston presented on SERI research publications completed in Marikana informal settlement, Ratanang informal settlement and Siyanda informal settlement which aim to shed light on the more plausible measures that can be taken in order to improve the ways in which informal settlement upgrading is carried out.
She highlighted the key recommendations gleaned from the reports including:
Royston also discussed tenure security in informal settlement upgrading in the context of urban land reform.
The DHS will produce a draft policy note to guide the UISP Grant in the next year.
On Saturday, 24 August 2018, the Business Day published a co-written article by Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance’s Amy Tekie and SERI’s Kelebogile Khunou on the plight of domestic workers and farm workers in South Africa. The op-ed makes an argument for farm workers and domestic workers to be paid the minimum wage and further helps employers understand the difference between a minimum and a living wage.
“Farm workers and domestic workers are widely recognised as two of the most vulnerable occupational groups in the country. Despite attempts by the South African government to provide legal protections, little has changed for many farm and domestic workers who work in intolerable conditions with low wages and no formal terms of employment”, they write.
This Women’s Month, a coalition of civil society organisations and labour unions introduced the One Wage Campaign, calling for the inclusion of farm workers, domestic workers and Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) employees in the R20 per hour minimum wage. The op-ed also draws attention to this campaign.
To learn more about alivingwage, see Open Up’s Living Wage Calculator. Designed in conversation with domestic workers, it breaks down the costs of basic needs of domestic workers and their families and suggests to employers a fair wage.
On 16 August 2019, SERI released a policy brief entitled ‘Women with Disabilities and Informal Settlement Sanitation: Implications for Policy and Practice’. The policy brief was developed as a resource that would accompany the documentary, ‘The Struggle to be Ordinary’. The purpose of the policy brief and documentary are to raise awareness and build knowledge; it was to influence change in our attitudes, our thinking, our policies and our practices, as practitioners, as government officials, as decision-makers, budget holders, urban planners, activists, and most importantly, as people.
The policy brief provides an outline of the legislative and policy framework pertaining to water and sanitation provision to people with disabilities living in informal settlements covering international law and local legislation and policy. It then provides an overview of the state of sanitation in informal settlements and then goes on the set out the challenges that women with disabilities living in informal settlements face in terms of accessing adequate sanitation.
One of the biggest challenges with sanitation in informal settlements is that municipalities often only provide temporary or emergency services which are not intended to be used for longer than six months. This is largely because the upgrading of informal settlements is not being implemented. Currently, the water and sanitation services provided in informal settlements are not easily accessible especially for women and girls with disabilities because they are poorly located, often the outskirts of informal settlements. These sanitation facilities are also rendered inaccessible because:
[They] often lack space to accommodate a wheelchair, an assistive device or caregiver and also lack the ramped access and support structures such as toilet seats and handrails. The lack of required space and other necessary requirements compromises the rights to dignity and privacy of people with disabilities living in informal settlements.
In light of these observations, the policy brief proposes two key actions:
Housing and sanitation legislation and policies need to be revised to align with international human rights instruments especially the principles of accessibility and reasonable accommodation as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and;
The Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) and the Emergency Housing Programme must be implemented in line with the accessibility and reasonable accommodation standards of the UNCRPD.
On 16 August 2019, SERI partnered with the South African Cities Network (SACN), the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP), and Constitution Hill to launch a short documentary on sanitation for women with disabilities living in informal settlements entitled, ‘The Struggle to be Ordinary’. This documentary was commissioned by the Ford Foundation and was produced together with twospinningwheels productions and the Pegasys Institute. The film raises awareness of the intersection of gender, disability and basic services in informal settlements in South Africa.
The launch was attended by members of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), residents of the Harry Gwala Informal Settlement, national government officials representing departments of Social Development, Tourism, Human Settlements, city officals from the Cities of Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, representatives from Joburg Water and members of civil society from NGOs and other practitioners.
SERI’s director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, introduced the documentary by foregrounding some of the important statistics that reflect the lives of women with disabilities and their struggles to adequate sanitation services:
Households headed by people with disabilities are 5% more likely to lack access to improved sanitation facilities or piped water than the general population. The 2011 Census found that just less than half (45,2%) of households headed by persons with disabilities had access to a flush toilets and more than a third (37,1%) used pit toilets.
The screening of the documentary was followed by an open panel discussion. Panellists included David Morema (NUSP), Shelley Barry (twospinningwheels), Susan Mkhwanazi (SPCDF and the women’s forum), and Dr Phyllis Dannhauser (University of Johannesburg). The discussion was facilitated by Rehana Moosajee (The Barefoot Facilitator).
The discussion began by looking at the significance of the film. Susan Mkhwanazi reiterated the challenges faced by women in Slovo Park but noted that they too did not have a full understanding of how fellow residents with disabilities experience these same challenges. The film shed some light on their plight and helped to amply the voices of women with or directly affected by disabilities in Slovo Park.
Tim Fish Hodgeson from the International Community of Jurists lamented South Africa’s ableist culture that permeates society in that “almost all social services are deprived of people with disabilities, up to 600 000 children with disabilities are not in school today and less than 1% of people with disabilities are employed.” He argued that a lot more could be done to meet the needs of people with disabilities but an honest acceptance of South Africa’s ableist culture would need to be a starting point.
Lydia Lenyatsa, one of the women whose stories make up the documentary, highlighted the economic and life-threatening impact that poor access to sanitation and other basic services in informal settlements has had on her life:
I need a ventilator to breath. There's no electricity. They gave me a cylinder to last a month but if it runs out I could lose my life and I need to be there for my kids, so I had to connect to illegal electricity. It would cost me R500 a month.
The key message to come out of both the film and discussions is the urgent need for government to upgrade informal settlements in situ by making every effort to engage disabled people, particularly disabled women, in making decisions that directly impact their lives.
The documentary was developed as an advocacy tool which social justice organisations can use to press for universal access to safe, dignified sanitation and the concomitant advancement of the human rights of women and girls with disabilities. SERI’s hope is for the documentary to raise awareness, build knowledge and to influence a change in our attitudes, thinking, policies and practices.
The documentary is accompanied by a policy brief which sets out the implications for policy and the legal framework that governs over access to sanitation for women with disabilities living in informal settlements.