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Melani and the Further Residents of Slovo Park Informal Settlement v City of Johannesburg and Others ('Slovo Park')

Slovo Park informal settlement - Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) - City of Johannesburg

SERI represents approximately 7 000 people living in 3 709 households at the Slovo Park informal settlement located near Nancefield in Johannesburg. While there is a great deal of order in the settlement, which is laid out substantially as a formal township would be, with named streets and carefully demarcated subdivisions, it still lacks access to formal services and housing, which the residents have been promised for almost 20 years.

In this application the residents argue that the City of Johannesburg's failure to take a decision 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 the National Housing Code - is in breach of:

  • the principle of legality in section 1(c) of the Constitution, in that the respondents have failed, for over 20 years, despite numerous undertakings, to apply and take action in terms of the national laws and policies applicable to the applicants, particularly the UISP;
  • section 26(2) of the Constitution, in that it is unreasonable and invasive of the rights to the progressive realisation of the rights of access to adequate housing;
  • the City’s obligations under section 152(1)(a) and section 153(a) of the Constitution, to provide accountable government for local communities, to promote social and economic development, and to manage its administration and planning processes “to give priority to the basic needs of the community, and to promote the social and economic development of the community”; and, further, that
  • the failure to take a decision is administrative action, which falls to be reviewed in terms of section 6(2)(g) of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000 (PAJA).

The residents therefore seek to review the City's failure to take the decision to apply in terms of the UISP, and to compel the City to make such an application.

In June 2014, the City responded to the application by launching an interlocutory application disputing the lawfulness of the power of attorney authorising the SERI Law Clinic to institute proceedings against the City. The City provided affidavits from nine residents who had not signed SERI's power of attorney as evidence. In August 2014 the Slovo Park residents (represented by SERI) filed their answering affidavit, in which they agreed to withdraw the nine residents from the main application in order to expedite the process and avoid further delay; however also arguing that the contentions advanced by the City have no merit.

In January 2015 the City filed its answering affidavit in the main application, contending that it has made a policy decision to provide housing on land at Unaville (in Lenasia South) to qualifying applicants, and that the court cannot interfere with this decision. The residents replied to this affidavit in March 2015, arguing that the City’s plan for their relocation to Unaville is in clear breach of the applicable legal framework and that, as a first priority, the UISP requires that informal settlements must be upgraded in situ and in partnership with the residents of the relevant informal settlement. The City’s new plan to accommodate the applicants at Unaville ignores both requirements and the City does not furnish any evidence that any consideration of the requirements of the UISP was undertaken.

On 30 September 2015, the City withdrew its application disputing SERI's power of attorney in the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court in Johannesburg. The main application was heard in the same court on 9 November 2015. On 5 April 2016 acting Justice Strauss found that the UISP is binding on the City, and that the City’s decision “to completely ignore” the policy in favour of its own plan to evict and relocate the Slovo Park residents was in breach of the section 26 (2) of the Constitution, the Housing Act 107 of 1997, “unreasonable” and “not inclusive”. The Judge also found that the decision was taken without any consultation, and “flies in the face of established constitutional jurisprudence regard the need [for] meaningful engagement in instances where the right to adequate housing is concerned.” The judgment effectively set aside the City’s plan to relocate the residents, and directed the City to make the appropriate application to the provincial Minister for Human Settlements for a grant to upgrade the Slovo Park Informal Settlement in situ.