On 30 November 2018 the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) will launch a new research publication, a community practice note entitled Inner City Federation: Fighting for Decent Housing in Inner-City Johannesburg, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The community practice note documents the struggle of the Inner City Federation (the ICF), a self-organising coalition of tenants and unlawful occupiers from over 40 buildings in inner-city Johannesburg that advocates for better housing and basic services and challenges the stigma associated with low-income residents in the inner-city. The ICF is the first self-organised group of low-income residents living in Johannesburg's so-called 'bad buildings' in over a decade. It's main aim is to challenge the lack of well-located, affordable housing.
The community practice note examines the strategies and tactics used by poor inner-city residents to resist evictions, harassment and displacement; establish and maintain effective self-management structures in dilapidated buildings; collectively mobilise; and advocated for better housing.
This is the first community practice note in the Social Movements Series, a new series of community practice notes which aims to document how different social movements and community-based networks advocate for socio-economic development for poor and vulnerable people in different contexts.
The launch will include a panel discussion with activists and representatives from various social movements and community-based networks, including Siyabonga Mahlangu (Inner City Federation), Bonga Zamisa (Social Justice Coalition), and Lukhanyo Madyibi and Neziwe Cekiso (both from Reclaim the City). Edward Molopi, a researcher at SERI, will also speak.
On Tuesday, 20 November, SERI attorney, Zamantungwa Khumalo joined Salaam media’s ShaAqAttack show to discuss the right to protest and the recent Constitutional Court judgment declaring declares section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act unconstitutional.
Kgabo Senyatsi, Wits Moot Society chair and Axolile Notywala, Secretary General of Social Justice Coalition joined Zamantungwa on the show.
SERI is an amicus in the case representing the UN Special Rapporteur and made submissions based on an international law perspective. SERI’s submissions urged the court to have regard to international law standards and principles when considering the constitutionality of section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act. SERI argued that holding organisers criminally liable for failing to notify authorities about a protest is a restriction to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
“This judgment is important for communities to know that there is now one is less hurdle for them to jump to exercise their democratic rights… We have to accept that protest is part and parcel of people exercising their democratic rights and we should remove negative stereotypes and connotations leveled on protestors.“
On 19 November 2018, the Constitutional Court handed down a ruling upholding the January 2018 judgment from Judge Ndita of the Western Cape High Court, which declared section 12(1)(a) of the Regulations of Gathering Act unconstitutional.
The matter arises as a result of a protest by members and supporters of the Social Justice Coalition outside the offices of the former City of Cape Town (the City) Mayor, Ms Patricia de Lille, on 11 September 2013. Their grievances related to issues of poor sanitation for communities after lengthy engagements with the City.
The protesters, among other things, chained themselves to the railings at the City’s Civic Centre. Upon police intervention, 21 protesters were arrested and charged under section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993 (“Gatherings Act”) for unlawfully and intentionally convening a gathering without providing the relevant municipal authority with any notice that the gathering would take place. In the alternative to the main charge, the accused were charged under section 12(1)(e) of the Gatherings Act for unlawfully and intentionally attending a gathering without notice and the required permission from the relevant authority.
On 24 January 2018, the Western Cape High Court declared section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act unconstitutional. In declaring this provision unconstitutional, the Western Cape High Court said that a criminal sanction was "disproportionate to the offence" as it may result in people "carry[ing] with them the stigma" of a criminal conviction. Instead, judge Ndita suggested that civil liability may be a more appropriate penalty for failing to notify the municipality of an intended protest. The matter was referred to the Constitutional Court for confirmation of the order of constitutional invalidity, where the State and the Minister of Police appealed the Western Cape High Court's order.
On 21 August 2018, the matter was heard in the Constitutional Court. SERI, acting on behalf of the UN Special Rapporteur, once again made submissions based on an international law perspective and urged the court to have regard to international law standards and principles when considering the constitutionality of section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act. SERI argued that holding organisers criminally liable for failing to notify authorities about a protest is a restriction to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
On 14 November, WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing) held a public event on “forging a path towards recognition and inclusion of informal workers” at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The dialogue was centred on the International Labour Organization’s Recommendation 204, the purpose for which, according to WIEGO, “is to provide guidance to governments to facilitate the transition to formalization, and serves as a tool for informal workers to claim their rights, through their representative organisations”. A panel discussion on the transition from the informal to the formal economy was the main event, and included perspectives from local government, civil society and informal worker organisations- South Africa Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA), South Africa Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), HomeNet Thailand and Asociacion Nacional de Recicladores from Colombia- which represented the voices of informal workers.
SERI has produced a series of publications outlining the rights of informal traders to make a living and how local government can regulate informal trade in a manner that respects the rights of informal traders and treat them in a manner that is just, humane and inclusive.
On Thursday, 8 November 2018, SERI’s Director of Litigation, Nomzamo Zondo, joined Meshack van Wyk, MMC for Housing for the City of Johannesburg and Dr. Margot Rubin, Senior Researcher with National Research Foundation Research-Chair on Spatial Analysis and Planning at Wits University in a dialogue on inclusionary housing in the City of Johannesburg (the City).
The dialogue, hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, aimed to help attendees gain a better understanding of inclusionary housing in Johannesburg and coincided with the launch of the Mandela Initiative final report on Grappling with poverty and inequality, which discusses and offers recommendations for eliminating poverty and addressing inequality in South Africa.
The City of Johannesburg is currently finalising its inclusionary housing policy. The first version of the policy, released on 28 February 2018, proposed to create more affordable housing by requiring any property development in the City consisting of 10 or more dwelling units to include at least 20% inclusionary housing and capping rentals at R2, 100 per month (not including utility bills). SERI’s submission on the draft policy welcomed the City’s attempt to provide affordable housing for poor and low-income families but noted that the policy did not cater for households earning less than R3,200 a month and that the proposed rent-caps would require poor and low-income families to spend the majority of their household incomes on rent.
In her comments, Nomzamo Zondo stressed that any inclusionary housing policy must allow for the thousands of people already living in inner-city Johannesburg to be able to access decent, affordable housing.