In March 2019, SERI in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation Centre of Memory launched a protest exhibition entitled “Insurgent Citizens: Reflections on Protest in Democratic South Africa.”

The exhibition creates a visual narrative which offers the public an opportunity to reflect on protests and the state’s response to protests. It further challenges and dispels some often deeply-held assumptions and longstanding myths about protests in South Africa and offers the public an opportunity to reflect on protests and the state response to protests through the law and practice.

NMFThe exhibition has been featured in a number of media articles, op-eds and radio shows listed below. In March, the City Press published an op-ed by SERI researcher, Thato Masiangoako, which challenged some of the common misconceptions around protest activity in South Africa and unpacked some of the reasons behind skewed public perceptions of protest. The op-ed also considers the important role that protest has played in our 25-year democracy and draws attention to the disproportionate amount of force that protests are usually met with.

In the same month, SERI’s Alana Potter and Edward Molopi were featured as guests on the Azania Mosaka show Talk Radio 702 and Iman Rappetti show on Power FMrespectively. Potter and Molopi reflected on the recent protest exhibition at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. On 8 April 2019, SERI researcher, Thato Masiangoako, discussed the question of violent protests on the Talking Point show with Bongani Gwala on SAFM.

The exhibition is open for public viewing at the Centre of Memory on weekdays between 08:30 and 16:30 by appointment.

  • Read more about the exhibition here

On 18 and 19 March 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), the Omega Research Foundation (UK) and the Right2Protest hosted a workshop for civil society and community-based organisations from around the country on the role of civil society in holding the police accountable for human rights violations.

The workshop brought together civil society and community-based organisations and a range of experts in the law, policing ‘best practice’, police weapons and on forensic investigations following ‘use of force’ incidents. The two-day workshop provided participants with a forum to discuss direct experiences of policing, the current state of public order policing and in light of the 19 November 2018 Constitutional Court ruling on the Regulation of Gatherings Act and the continued failure of the Minister of Police to release publicly the Post-Marikana Expert Panel Report on Public Order Policing. This executive summary highlights the key themes and conclusions that emerged across the panels and during discussions on improving public order policing in South Africa. You can also access the full report of this workshop here

  • Read the executive summary here.
  • Read the full workshop report here.
  • Read more about the workshop here.
  • Access the workshop material here


On Thursday, 11 July 2019, the South African Cities Network (SACN) and SERI co-hosted a seminar with Professor Bernadette Atuahene, a professor of law, author, documentary filmmaker and activist at which she presented her recent paper “Predatory Cities”. The seminar was hosted at the SACN offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The 23 attendees comprised government officials, community members, researchers, and practitioners.

Prof. Atuahene defines Predatory Cities as urban areas where officials take property from residents and transfer it to public coffers intentionally or unintentionally violating existing laws. She proposes Detroit, Michigan in the United States as a predatory city which has used exorbitant and illegal property rate evaluations to increase state revenue while simultaneously dispossessing the poor of their homes. This led to a property tax foreclosure crisis in which 1 in 4 properties in Detroit were foreclosed between 2011 and 2015.

Atuehene notes that foreclosure rates tend to be very high in cities with majority African American populations largely because poorer home owners are most affected because they do not have the resources to challenge unconstitutional tax inflations.

In South Africa, the City of Johannesburg has taken similar measures to increase revenue collection to the detriment of its poor residents. In 2018, SERI’s Alana Potter and Kelebogile Khunou published a working paper titled, “Turning off the tap”, on the City's decision to discontinue universal free basic water. According to Potter and Khunou, “(t)he  City’s  decision  to  withdraw  the  universal  provision  of  6kl  of  FBW,  and  the  requirement to register as an indigent to receive benefits is unreasonable because the  use  of  an  indigent  register,  in  the  City’s  experience  spanning  nearly  two  decades,  has  proven  to  be  ineffective  as  the  register  has  been  and  is  currently  significantly  under-representative  of  those  who  should  have  been  receiving  the  full benefits of the ESP. Moreover, the City is yet to provide a convincing financial argument  for  the  withdrawal  of  the  universal  provision  of  FBW,  given  that  the  City’s rising block tariff structure had always allowed it to remain financially viable. The  result  of  the  decision  is  that  there  are  now  hundreds  of  thousands  of  households who are excluded from receiving FBW, and who need to be informed of the ESP and undergo the registration process which itself is a deeply flawed method. . . The  decision  constitutes  a  regressive  step  by  the  City  of  Johannesburg,  which  is  required  to  take  reasonable  legislative  and  other  measures  to  progressively  realise  the  achievement of the right to sufficient water, within available resources.”

Download the working paper here.



On 5 July 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) launched four new research publications at our offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The research publications make up SERI’s Informal Settlement Research Series entitled “Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency”. The publications consist of three site‑based research reports on the informal settlements of Ratanang in Klerksdorp, North West Province; Marikana in Philippi, Cape Town, Western Cape; and Siyanda in KwaMashu, eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal. The fourth publication in the series is a synthesis report entitled “Here to Stay: A Synthesis of Findings and Implications from Ratanang, Marikana and Siyanda”.ISAR publications

ISAR launch Lauren speaks and Tiff

The first report, The Promised Land: Ratanang Informal Settlement, looks at life in the first research site, the Ratanang informal settlement, located in the west of Klerksdorp CBD in the City of Matlosana, North West province.

The second report, Our Place to Belong: Marikana Informal Settlement, shares findings from the second research site, the Marikana informal settlement, located in Philippi East in the City of Cape Town, Western Cape province.

The third report, Left Behind: Siyanda Informal Settlement, provides findings from the third research site, the Siyanda informal settlement, located in KwaMashu, eThekwini, in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The fourth report, Here to Stay: A Synthesis of Findings and Implications from Ratanang, Marikana and Siyanda synthesises and compares findings across the three research sites and considers the implications for upgrading in a comparative way across all three sites.

Through this research series, the publications 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. The research advocates for informal settlement upgrading to begin by taking into consideration the existing arrangements, systems, patterns and procedures that make up the norms, practices and agency of these settlements being upgraded.

The research explores these issues by looking at four themes across the three informal settlements:

  • tenure security and land use management;
  • access to basic services;
  • livelihoods and economic life; and
  • political space.

ISAR launch audience

Discussing the reports at the launch were Alana Potter (SERI director of research & advocacy), Lauren Royston (SERI senior associate) and Tiffany Ebrahim (SERI researcher). Stuart Wilson (SERI executive director) gave the welcome and opening address. The launch was attended by residents and community organisers of some informal settlements, government officials, academics and other practitioners. Discussions highlighted some of the tensions between informality and formality as well as the complexities that arise from interactions between informal settlement communities and government officials. Informal settlement residents exchanged lessons, challenges and experiences and reiterated the value of community organisation and deliberation. 

  • Download the report on the Ratanang informal settlement here.
  • Download the report on the Marikana informal settlement here.
  • Download the report on the Siyanda informal settlement here.
  • Download the synthesis report here.




On 25 and 26 June 2019, SERI hosted a training-of-trainers workshop on the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 (ESTA) with the Surplus Peoples Project and Matzikama Farmworkers Forum. The purpose of the two-day workshop was to equip participants from various organisations with a clear understanding of the tenure protections offered under ESTA in order to assist them in their work of protecting and advocating for the rights of farm dwellers across the Western Cape.

In attendance were roughly 30 participants, who together represented the following organisations: CASAAWU, Matzikama Farmworkers Forum, TCOE, Citrusdal advice office, Cederberg Farmworkers Forum, Swartland Forum and the Women on Farms project.


Each session of the workshop focused on a particular section of ESTA. This was accompanied by fact sheets which answered the topical questions including, “Does ESTA protect my Rights?”, “What does ESTA mean by occupier?” and “What does ESTA mean by consent?”. These resources were used in conjunction with the SERI publication “Protection against eviction under the extension of security of tenure act: legal rules, principles and process by Advocate Irene De Vos, who conducted sessions in both English and Afrikaans.  

Throughout the workshop, participants were able to engage both each other and facilitators in asking relevant questions and sharing practical experiences. From these discussions, it emerged that the most common grievances held by farmworkers were issues surrounding access to basic services such as water and electricity. Many of the participants had questions  concerning whether or not a farm owner was allowed to discontinue access to services, and whether the farm owner was allowed to conduct an eviction of farm dwellers without the presence of a sheriff. SERI emphasised that ESTA that an eviction is illegal if it is not executed by a sheriff and must be accompanied by an order of court and that disconnecting connections to water or electricity could constitute a constructive eviction.











  • Download SERI's guide on ESTA here
  • Download the ESTA fact sheets below:

1. Who is an occupier under ESTA?

2. Does ESTA protect my Rights?

3. What does ESTA mean by consent?




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