For more than 20 years, the Slovo Park community outside Nancefield in Johannesburg were promised access to formal services and housing. On 30 July 2018, after years of government engagement, litigation and court judgments, the community of almost 10 000 people or 3 734 households have access to electricity for the first time.
The electrification of the settlement comes after a court judgment in the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court which compelled the City of Johannesburg to apply to the Gauteng provincial government for funding to upgrade Slovo Park in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) contained in National Housing Code of 2009. In the judgment, Acting Judge Strauss found that the UISP was binding on the City and that its decision “to completely ignore” the policy was “unreasonable”, “not inclusive” and in breach of the housing rights of the Slovo Park residents. The Judge then set aside the City’s plan to relocate the residents, and directed the City to make the appropriate application to the provincial MEC for Human Settlements for a grant to upgrade the Slovo Park informal settlement in situ.
Since 2016, a Slovo Park Task Team has been established to implement the UISP in Slovo Park. The Task Team consists of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) (a local community-based organisation), the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), the City of Johannesburg, City Power, and provincial and national government officials from the Department of Human Settlements. The electrification of Slovo Park is the first provision of basic services at the settlement that has been installed in situ after a process of inclusive community participation and in accordance with the UISP.
SERI represented the Slovo Park community during the litigation and participated in Slovo Park Task Team negotiations.
On 14 July 2018, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) hosted a day-long community dialogue on the South African government's implementation of the right of access to adequate housing and the right to sufficient water and sanitation as contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in Johannesburg. The dialogue, which brought together approximately 30 community-based activists, academics, and civil society representatives, was supported by the Dullah Omar Institute (DOI) at the University of the Western Cape and funded by the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR).
The community dialogue will inform the ICESCR Civil Society Campaign's development of a shadow report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Committee on ESCR) on South Africa’s implementation of the ICESCR. In 2017, the South African government submitted its initial periodic report on its progress in realising the rights contained in the ICESCR to the Committee, which is due for consideration by the Committee in September 2018. This offers South African non-governmental organisations (NGOs), social movements and community-based organisations (CBOs) an important opportunity to contribute to holding the South African government accountable for the levels of enjoyment or non-enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the country through the production of a shadow report that could supplement the state periodic report or that could provide an alternative interpretation on the state’s progress on implementation.
The ICESCR Civil Society Campaign has developed a draft shadow report, which will be supplemented by the views of the activists and civil society representatives who participated in the community dialogue.
The ICESCR Civil Society Campaign is comprised of a number of South African based civil society organisations, which includes the Black Sash, Dullah Omar Institute, Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP SA), People’s Health Movement SA (PHM), SERI, Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) and various other organisations.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) is aware of a media report that alleges that the families of the miners killed during the Marikana massacre have been offered R100 million in compensation.
SERI is currently taking instructions from the families on various offers of compensation that have been made by the State via the State Attorney. None of those offers, whether individually or collectively, amount to anything close to R100 million.
We have no further comment at this time, and will make no comment until our instructions are complete, and an agreement has been reached with the State Attorney.
On 18 July 2018, SERI filed an application for leave to appeal in the Constitutional Court on behalf of Makause informal settlement resident, General Moyo.
This case emanates from a criminal charge laid against Moyo and two other activists from the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo), a community-based organisation in Makause informal settlement, following attempts by him and other residents to hold a march against police brutality in Primrose, Germiston in 2012. He was charged with “intimidating” the Station Commander of the Primrose Police Station in Germiston, in terms of section 1(1)(b) of the Intimidation Act 72 of 1982. Moyo, with the assistance of SERI, seeks to have sections 1(1)(b) and 1(2) of the Intimidation Act declared unconstitutional and invalid because it has the effect of criminalising a wide range of expression protected by the right of freedom of expression enshrined in section 16(1) of the Constitution. His trial in the Germiston Regional Magistrates’ Court has been postponed until this challenge is finally determined.
In the application for leave to appeal, Moyo argues that the majority judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) that found section 1(1)(b) of the Intimidation Act was constitutionally compliant is incorrect because the judges misconstrued the purpose and effect of this section in historical context and that the judges applied an interpretation to section 1(1)(b) that "it cannot reasonably bear". This, Moyo argues, indicates that the SCA should have declared section 1(1)(b) unconstitutional as it is "plainly inconsistent with the Constitution".
Today, on Mandela Day, we reflect on the difficult conditions faced by residents of informal settlements and the challenges they face in accessing basic services.
Since the beginning of July, 2018, the City of Johannesburg has been conducting an Expanded Social Package (ESP) awareness campaign in Slovo Park and Elias Motsoaledi informal settlements, encouraging residents to register on the city’s indigent list “to access electricity and water rebates, as well as other forms of social support”
SERI’s Tiffany Ebrahim and Maanda Makwarela have written this op-ed considering the use of the ESP in informal settlements and how it excludes poor households (whom it is meant to serve) from access to even the most basic of services.
“The ESP is touted as a lifeline for thousands of residents of Johannesburg, but will likely not apply to residents of informal settlements like Slovo Park who are still waiting for their settlements to be upgraded through improved access to basic services. Informal settlements generally have high rates of unemployment and lack access to metered services such as water and electricity. These factors make it highly unlikely that informal settlement residents will qualify for ESP subsidies.”