PRESS RELEASE: Ground Breaking Informal Settlement Ruling: Upgrading Policy is Binding and Must Be Obeyed

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The below press statement was released by Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) South Africa on 5 April 2016. 

The Gauteng Local Division of the High Court today ordered the City of Johannesburg (the City) to apply to the Gauteng Province for a grant to upgrade the Slovo Park Informal Settlement. For 20 years, the 10 000 residents of Slovo Park had been promised that their informal settlement would be upgraded to formal housing. Planning schemes were developed, environmental impact assessments were completed and steps were taken to formally declare Slovo Park a township. However, nothing was actually done.

Dissatisfied with these broken promises, the Slovo Park community developed its own upgrading plan in terms of the government’s Upgrading of Informal Settlements Policy (UISP), contained in the National Housing Code, 2009. When the City refused to engage them on this plan, the community, represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), took the City to court to compel it to start the upgrading process.

In response, the City unveiled plans to evict the Slovo Park community and move it 11km further away from the centre of Johannesburg to a still-to-be constructed housing development at a place called “Unaville”.

In a judgment handed down today, 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 Judge then 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.

Nomzamo Zondo, SERI’s Director of Litigation, said: “This is a truly ground-breaking judgment, which establishes that the UISP is binding on municipalities. The government must make sure that paper policies, such as the UISP, result in meaningful change on the ground. Until today, the City of Johannesburg thought itself completely at liberty to disobey this crucial, pro-poor national housing policy. The Court has sent a clear message that this is unreasonable and unlawful. We call upon the City of Johannesburg to accept the judgment and commence engagement with our clients on the content of a plan to upgrade Slovo Park”.

Advocates Stuart Wilson, Irene De Vos and Mkhululi Stubbs argued for the Slovo Park community in court.

Contact details:

Nomzamo Zondo, SERI director of litigation 071 301 9676/ 011 356 5868/ nomzamo@seri-

Dan Moalahi, Slovo Park Development Forum 072 676 8543/

Mandela Speaks to South African Federation on Role of Communities in Building a Better Society for All

Nelson Mandela Visits South African Federation

In 1995, shortly after being elected the first democratic president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela visited the Homeless People’s Federaiton of South Africa (now called Federation of the Urban Poor) in Oukasie, Gauteng. Oukasie is the home to one of South Africa’s oldest savings schemes, started by Rose Molokoane, one of the founding members of the South African Federation. 

In his address to the Federation members of Oukasie, Mr. Mandela talks about the importance of government working together with the urban poor to meet South Africa’s housing challenge – a major challenge in 1995, and perhaps even a greater challenge today. He highlighted the important role of women in working to acquire safe, secure housing, stating the following notable point: 

“You are showing that in building together we build each other, better communities and a better society for our children to grow up in.”

Today, the South African Federation of the Urban Poor has reached a critical mass consisting of some 1,500 autonomous savings and credit groups whose size range from a minimum of 15 to a maximum of 500 members. Since Mandela’s address in 1995, FEDUP has established itself as an international pioneer in the field of tenure security and people’s housing. Through its collective power, this network was able to lobby government for direct access to the housing subsidy programme (without the interference of developers or contractors), secure 10 million rand as a revolving loan facility, and heavily influence low-income housing policy under “the People’s Housing Process” (PHP). By securing these entitlements from the national government, the Federation was able to deliver 12,000 housing units (average size being 56sqm), incremental loans for a further 2,000 houses, infrastructure for 2,500 families, land tenure for 12,000 families, hundreds of small business loans, three parcels of commercial land, eleven community centres, and several crèches. This was all administered through its own housing finance facility, the uTshani Fund

These days FEDUP and uTshani are still actively building houses and engaging government on the re-directing of housing subsidies to support people-centred, participatory and empowering development. Being strategically aligned to the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), FEDUP members are adding years of experience to the relatively new experience of informal settlement upgrading. The creative synergies at the intersections of a woman’s movements anchored in daily savings and livelihood strategies and a predominantly male-led and broad based social movement are redefining the social mobilisation “rituals”.

You can read Mandela’s full address below: 

Mr. Mayor; 
Members of the Homeless People’s Federation; 
Citizens of Oukasie, Brits and neighbouring areas

The rains of the past week have brought joy to many in our country, not least in this fertile farming area.

But the drenching downpours have also highlighted one of the great challenges facing our country – the challenge of putting decent roofs over people’s heads.

In approaching this task we have learned a great deal from the people – from those who are the biggest providers of housing in the country, the homeless themselves. We have learned the value of partnership between ourselves and the people in their communities.

We recognise the efforts but into housing by the people themselves. We are proud of the way our people use their initiative, mobilise their meagre resources, sharpen their skills, and put in their labour, in order to provide shelter for their families.

Government has committed itself to supporting the people’s housing process. We will provide mechanisms and funds to support it in such a way that the standard of housing can improve – particularly for the poorest of our people.

What I have seen here today confirms that this is the right course. The Homeless People’s Federation, with its 20 000 members across the country and its savings and training schemes, is setting an example of Masakhane in action.

What is particularly encouraging is to see the women taking their lives into their own hands, taking charge, determined to improve the lives of the communities and of our country.

You are showing that in building together we build each other, better communities and a better society for our children to grow up in. You are showing that with the interfere in the legal process, but it is not disinterested in the case whose outcome, we believe, will have wide impact.

Government is busy formulating a police on the ownership of mineral resources. Consultation will ensure that the resulting policy accommodates the aspirations of all stakeholders while ensuring that the mining industry retains its central position within the engine room of economic reconstruction.

Amongst our strategic objectives is the goal of ensuring that mining rights are made available to small entrepreneurs and that ownership of the industry is opened up to previously excluded communities. This also was the vision of Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi. It will be the duty of his successor, the Bafokeng people, and indeed all the people of South Africa, to continue the struggle for economic empowerment on all fronts.

During this delicate period of mourning and transition we urge the members of this community to close ranks and not to allow differences op opinion to drive them apart. You are one people. The practice of prohibiting non-Bafokeng persons from being buried in the same graveyard, regardless of their sojourn within this community, is a blight on the esteem and respect in which our nation holds this community and on the dignity of Kgosi Molotlegi in particular. Nevertheless, this issue should be left to the community to sort out on its own in accordance with the new culture of our rainbow nation.

Kgosi Lebone departed at a time when we had just concluded our first democratic community elections. The establishment of democratic local authorities in rural areas needs to be handled with great sensitivity. We are confident that this community will assist the new leader to play his constructive role in the process. In all villages under Kgosi Lebone’s jurisdiction, the elections went smoothly, and we look forward to an equally smooth establishment of local councils.

This is in everyone’s interest. We need one another and we all have a role to play now and in the future. The improvement of our lives and the future stability of our localities depend on these councils. An amicable relationship between the Kgosi and the newly-elected councillors will give local democracy in the rural areas a strong foundation.

Bafokeng People;

As we bid our final farewell to our beloved Kgosi Lebone, let us look back at his heroic record and reflect on the love he had for this community. Let us, for a moment, focus on his vision of a prosperous future and pledge that we shall never rest until that ideal is realised.

Thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Originally appeared on

South Africa’s FEDUP Wins Govan Mbeki Human Settlements Award

FEDUP wins Govan Mbeki Award for Housing

**Cross-posted from SA SDI Alliance Blog**

By Greg van Rensburg, uTshani Fund, South Africa 

Each year government recognises the partnerships with all sectors involved in developing sustainable and integrated human settlements. The Govan Mbeki Human Settlements awards are a prestigious ceremonies hosted by the National Department of Human Settlements in two stages: the Provincial and the National. The award ceremony aims to showcase and demonstrate the partnerships with the department at both tiers and promotes best practices in meeting the delivery mandate of the Presidency’s Outcome 8, which is aligned with the vision of building sustainable human settlements and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The MEC of Human Settlements at the Provincial tier nominates projects in the five specified categories which displays exceptional quality, promotes best practice, brings together stakeholders, and most importantly, improving the quality of life for the beneficiary-partners.

FEDUP wins Govan Mbeki Award for Housing

According to the Gauteng Province’s Department of Local Government and Housing, a thorough investigation was initiated to access the quality of the projects nominated. The Department’s website says the following of the Gauteng evaluation process:

Prior to the ceremony of the Govan Mbeki Awards, there is a preceding quality monitoring process of projects submitted by entrants throughout Gauteng. The awards ceremony, to be held on Thursday, signals the end of the Gauteng Leg of the process. The awards are named after the liberation stalwart Govan Mbeki whose life work and struggle envisioned landlessness and homelessness as some of the inhumane legacies of the apartheid system. The ceremony will celebrate those contractors in Gauteng whose work and delivery is symbolic of the quality and dignity of human settlements that Govan Mbeki strove for.

The Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) has been transforming housing policy from the bottom up for the past two decades. Premised on the notions of social and political change, savings groups linked to the Federation has built more than 12,000 since 1994, and continue to set a precedent in woman’s empowerment through self-build and collaboration with government. FEDUP’s work has been recognised at the highest levels of government, and has been showcases to international audiences such as UN Habitat, Cities Alliance, World Bank and other multilateral organisations.

On the 11th of April, FEDUP was nominated in the Gauteng Provincial Govan Mbeki awards. This event, hosted at the Emperors Palace, Kempton Park in Johannesburg and chaired by the MEC for Local Government and Housing, Ms Ntombi Mekgwe, FEDUP was awarded the award for the Duduza project. uTshani Fund acts as Account Administrator to FEDUP, and provides technical support to the Community Construction Management Team (CCMT). The contract signed with the Province allocated 150 stands in Duduza, of which 134 houses have been completed. In this year alone, 93 houses were built. On average, FEDUP builds houses with the same subsidy quantum but the differences are vast! Houses are larger than 50m2 in size compared to government build of 35 – 40m2.  These houses are fully fitted with a bathroom, a kitchen with a sink as well as two spacious bedrooms. The houses are fully electrified. The finishing include plaster inside and outside, and is painted inside and outside. These are achievable through the savings and contributions of the beneficiaries from their savings.

The FEDUP alternative is continuing to reshape the policy and institutional landscape. But most importantly, it is the building of a strong woman’s federation that opens many other avenues for livelihoods and poverty alleviation.


In South Africa, Innovations in Financing Slum Upgrading


An artist’s impression of the devastation of informal spaces under apartheid planning.

**Cross-posted from the SA SDI Alliance Blog**

By Jhono Bennett and Walter Fieuw, CORC South Africa 

Post-apartheid urban and housing policies have underscored the necessity of progressively integrating the poor as a means of restructuring spatially fragmented cities and eradicating asset-based poverty. Postapartheid urban policies had to redress apartheid fragmentation and segregation and the subject of transformation in democratic South Africa has been the historically constructed uneven development of ‘islands of spatial affluence’ in a ‘sea of geographic misery’.

With the relaxing of influx controls during the late 1980s, South African cities have been subject to rapid urbanization and resultant growth of informal settlements in inner-city and peripheral areas. The growth of informal settlements in the past two decades have by far exceeded government’s efforts to deliver better services, provide adequate housing and mitigate against disasters and vulnerability. Despite the government’s efforts to deliver more than 2.5 million housing units since 1994, the housing backlog have remained at 15-17% of the urban population (2.1 million units outstanding). Today there are more than 2,600 informal settlements, and continue to grow between 5-7% across different regions. This is a stark increase from 300 informal settlements in 1994. Urban vulnerability has increased, juxtaposed with worsening human development indices, service delivery constraints, insecure tenure, and safety and security concerns.

Since 2004, with the introduction of Breaking New Ground, and through consecutive National Housing Codes (2004, 2007, 2009), the Department of Human Settlements have introduced the concept of “upgrading informal settlements”, which aims to progressively integrate informal settlement into the broader urban fabric, deliver better services, and incrementally secure tenure. To this effect, a performance agreement was signed between the Presidency and National Minister of Human Settlements, Mr. Tokyo Sexwale. Output 1 of the Presidency’s Outcome 8[1] (Sustainable Human Settlements and improved quality of household life) aims to upgrade 400,000 households in-situ by 2014. Moreover, such interventions are also spotlighted by Chapter 8 of the National Development Plan (also called “Vision 2030”) which calls for the integration of informal settlement into the urban fabric through upgrading, incremental security of tenure, and better service delivery.


Community organisations of the poor have been systematically sidelined through the governments supply-sided approach to urban restructuring and housing delivery. The rally call of social movements in South Africa has been that of greater inclusion in decision making processes and meaningful engagement around settlement improvement. The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) has emerged as an alternative social movement that prioritises pragmatic engagement with government around collaborative approaches to upgrading of informal settlements. However, in Gauteng, communities have been systematically disregarded, which lead to the mobilization of thousands of informal settlement dwellers to march on the office of the premier.

In the wake of the Asihambe solidarity march on the 11th September, and in response to the growing demand from communities to start small scale and autonomous improvement projects, the Johannesburg CORC office has begun a renewed effort through the CUFF project process of engaging and supporting the informal settlement communities in Gauteng around a range of projects.

The Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) is an initiative of the South African Alliance. The fund is capitalized by CORC, uTshani Fund and contributions from SDI. The Fund’s board—made up of 60% shack dwellers and 40% support NGO professionals—receives proposals for upgrading projects, but the community is ultimately responsible for writing up the project description, get quotes from suppliers, and implement the project (with support from ISN, CORC and uTshani Fund).


The CUFF projects are one of several tools CORC uses to support the ISN/FEDUP in mobilising organised communities towards development. The CUFF projects work synergistically with the Savings,Enumeration, and Community based planning methodologies alongside partnership formalisation with local government, and call for the identification of a key developmental item needed by a community. The leadership and community members  then work with ISN/FEDUP and CORC technical members to design, quantify and cost the project. In order to proceed, the community members are required to collect and save a fraction of the project cost towards the contribution of the overall costs that, once approved by the CUFF community/NGO board, will be implemented in the community. The objectives of the CUFF projects are to set precedents for Govenment and Community partnerships in informal settlement upgrading by providing technical assistance and seed capital for pilot projects. This process should ideally create systems, procedures and structures that enable communities to work in collaboration with government institutions.

In order to meet these growing demands, the Johannesburg CORC office has employed the help of several new interns from the 1:1 Student League Network, having gained experience in this network through the University design/build projects, they are open minded and ready to engage with the difficulties involved in the socio-technical support of community driven development processes. These interns are working under the supervision and guidance of the ISN/FEDUP’s technical community groups and the various leadership structures in the settlements.

New intern Sumaya described her experience in working directly with the community

We met with leadership at the community hall to initiate community mapping process where we mapped out key areas and “problem” areas, as described by the Magandaganda community. Members expressed a desire to have their own yards as they are experiencing disputes regarding unclear tenure. A few members of the leadership also showed some hostility and hesitation as they felt that their concerns are not being taken further fast enough. They also expressed concern regarding the risk of crossing the rail-line that borders the settlement.


The CUFF teams are working on several projects in the City of Johannesburg and Ekurheleni such as Marathon, Delport, Peter Mokaba,  Innesfree and Magandaganda. These projects vary from the installation of communal taps to the allocation of plots in denser settlements.

Mohau Melani, regional ISN coordinator, explained the process of engaging the communities as follows,


 The enumeration will provide the settlement committee with total knowledge of everybody who is the settlement. This will also assist the community in dealing with and control of allocation into sites once their measured into a layout … The community has promised to provide us with the background history of the settlement when the community meets with ISN and CORC technical teams. ISN delegates assist the community with the measurement and costing of the pipes in order to increase a number of taps in the settlement.

The collaboration between community organisations and committees that drive local development agendas, networking at the regional level via ISN, and receive technical support from CORC and ISN is proving to be an indispensable model for community driven development.

Simultaneously the CUFF project teams are profiling and collecting critical data to prepare identified settlements for larger development processes through the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP).

[1] Other outputs of Outcome 8 is to improve the access to basic services (Output 2 includes the following improvements: Water – from 92% to 100%; Sanitation – from 69% to 100%; Refuse removal – from 64% to 75%; Electricity – from 81% to 92%), facilitate the provision of 600,000 accommodation units in the gap market (earning between R3,500 and R12,800), and mobilisation of well located public land for low income and affordable housing.