On 21 December 2018, the Minister of Public Works published an invitation for interested parties to comment on the draft Expropriation Bill, 2019. SERI has considered the draft Bill and made a submission to the Minister in accordance with the public consultation process.

The Expropriation Bill is a welcome affirmation of the state’s role in unlocking land for developmental and redistributive purposes. However, SERI considers that more could be done to ensure that the Bill is situated within a more thoroughly worked-out programme of urban land reform that has appropriate regard to the wealth of already existing regulatory instruments and opportunities to use expropriation to facilitate pro-poor land reform.

SERI’s comments highlighted a number of gaps in the proposed in the draft Expropriation Bill.

SERI’s primary concerns relate to the exclusion of individuals from being able to initiate the expropriation process; limitations on the ability to expropriate state-owned land; the location of the draft Bill in relation to existing legislation; the expropriation of state-subsidised property for nil compensation; the limitations on the ability for citizens to monitor the implementation of the expropriation process; and the definition of “purely speculative purposes”.

  • Read the full submission here.
  • Read the draft Expropriation Bill here.
  • Read SERI's submission to Parliament on land expropriation here.
  • Read op-ed by SERI executive director, Stuart Wilson, on land expropriation here


"The world has come to accept the unacceptable. It is a human rights imperative that informal settlements be upgraded to meet the basic standards of human dignity." Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing.

SERI’s Alana Potter and the Social Justice Coalition’s Axolile Notywala co-convened a session on informal settlement sanitation in the sub-theme “Sanitation and the SDGs - Leave No One Behind” on 19 February 2019. They joined the approximately 1,300 mostly international NGOs, donors, academics and practitioners who participated in AfricaSan, which was co-hosted for the first time by the fifth Faecal Sludge Management Conference

AfricaSan has grown from a conference to a movement that blends political, technical and knowledge exchange streams. From its inception in 2002 linked to the formation of the African Ministers’ Council for Water (AMCOW) during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) with just 13 ministers present, AfricaSan now includes political representatives from more than 60 African countries. AfricaSan continues to set and learn from progress (or lack of progress) against regional and national sanitation and hygiene commitments; to generate evidence to prioritise and invest in sanitation and hygiene, and develop strategies to improve sector performance.

AfricaSan2The first commitment in the N’gor Declaration, signed by African Ministers at AfricaSan IV in Dakar Senegal in 2015 states: “Focus on the poorest, most marginalised and unserved aimed at progressively eliminating inequalities in access and use and implement national and local strategies with an emphasis on equity and sustainability”.

The commitment to not only ‘leave no one behind’ but to actively prioritise sanitation services in order to eliminate inequalities, is one of least progress across countries. SDG and N’gor monitoring shows marked inequality in sanitation provision across African countries. As demonstrated by WASHCost research in five countries over five years, the poor pay more for poorer quality WASH services across the world.

SERI shared findings from informal settlement action research in Marikana (Cape Town), Ratanang (Klerksdorp) and Siyanda (eThekwini) to be launched in Johannesburg in April 2019. SJC discussed their campaign for dignified sanitation services in informal settlements in Cape Town, noting clearly that 66% of informal settlement latrines are temporary, pose safety risks, are culturally and socially inappropriate and are neither private nor dignified. In Khayelitsha, 83% of informal settlements were established over 15 years ago.

SERI also facilitated a session for the World Health Organisation (WHO) UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-water (GLAAS) on Effective National Sanitation Policies: Learning from Five Countries. SERI’s sub-theme focused on issues to be resolved in sanitation policies in order to enable equitable access to services. Outcomes will be fed into sanitation policy guidelines be published by the African Ministers Council for Water (AMCOW).            

10 Key messages:

  • AfricaSan1People are not left behind by accident. Poverty is structural and systemic. Notions of the poor as ‘undocumented’, ‘undesirable’ or ‘undeserving’ are entrenched in popular narratives and influence policy decisions and budget allocations.
  • In South Africa, inequalities persist despite the infrastructure developed and the targets met, partly because housing and services have been provided on the peripheries of urban settlements, far from economic opportunities. 
  • Poor people are left behind because government either does too much (by evicting them to the outskirts of cities far from economic opportunities or by redeveloping existing settlements), or because it does too little (by expecting the poor to provide their own services in a market based system). 
  • Self-supply places significant strain on local resources and differentiates access along social and economic lines, deepening the vulnerability of vulnerable groups. 
  • The productive use of services is essential to escape poverty and precarity. Greater quantities of water and power closer to households are needed to enable this. Housing needs to be near economic opportunities. 
  • Shared sanitation presents profound safety and privacy concerns, particularly for women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly.
  • Tenure security enables people to build livelihoods and resilience. Container based solutions are designed for temporary settlements. Many informal settlements in South Africa have been there for more than a decade. 
  • Communities are resourceful and make creative adaptations. Local norms, practices and agency are a resource to be built into in-situ upgrading of “sites and services” in informal settlements.
  • Leaving no one behind requires concerted effort and resources. It may mean policy changes. It means changing how we see and treat the poor. 
  • To reach the poor we need political will, better data, blended financing mechanisms, integrated planning and a nuanced approach to enabling and regulating the private sector.

Juta Expropriation Talk

On Thursday, 21 February 2019, SERI director of litigation, Nomzamo Zondo, participated as a panelist at the latest Juta Talking Points panel discussion entitled ‘Perspectives on Land Expropriation: Elevating the Debate’, held in Johannesburg. 

Zondo was joined by Prof Elmien du Plessis, Ronald Lamola, Mzukisi Kota and Hajra Omarjee as the panel chair. In her talk, Zondo cautioned against the expropriation process being captured by the elite and politically connected. She argued that the process needs to be activated by the people on the ground who required access to the land – be they private individuals or communities. She further argued that the same process needed to be followed whether the disputed land was state owned or privately owned. ‘Power must revert to the people who need the land. It cannot be left to the state,’ she said. 

Watch the full video here

SERI would also like to express its gratitude to Juta for the donation of 26 legal books to the SERI library.  

Juta Books

ISN WorkshopOn Thursday, 13 February, SERI was invited by the Informal Settlements Network (ISN) to give a presentation on housing and evictions law in South Africa. The meeting, hosted in the Kliptown Informal Settlement, was attended by 20 ISN members and leaders of informal settlements in Gauteng and formed part of the ISN’s annual strategic meeting and community engagement. 

SERI presented on resisting evictions and legal principles contained in the Constitution. The presentation provided participants with insight on how to use the Constitution and legislation such as the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 ("PIE Act") to challenge illegal evictions. The presentation was offered by SERI research and advocacy officer, Edward Molopi.

Documentary pic 2

On 20 February 2019, SERI published a new short film on South Africa’s advocates for change. The film showcases the critical role played by human rights lawyers in South Africa and the importance of training highly skilled public interest lawyers to keep the promise of our constitutional democracy. 

It features SERI’s annual advocacy training programme, which has been operated annually for four years. The programme is a partnership between the Bertha Foundation, SERI and City University, London to provide quality training in court advocacy to young human rights lawyers in South Africa free of charge.

The training programme is a unique and critically important practical skills programme that supplies South African public interest legal practitioners with essential courtroom skills to enable them to provide better legal representation to the very poor and vulnerable people they work with across a wide range of different human rights work. In this way, SERI, the Bertha Foundation and City, University of London hope to contribute to the development and strengthening of well-trained, professional advocates working on public interest law.

Together they are carrying forward the struggle for justice, helping people to assert their dignity no matter what their circumstances.

The film was produced by Ilya Melnikov, a film student at City University, London; and directed by Nikki Walsh, a senior lecturer at City University, London

  • Watch the short film here


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