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/

Constitutional Court Victory for Displaced Families

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

By Sandra van Rensburg (on behalf of CORC and ISN)

After more than four months of legal proceedings, the Constitutional Court delivered a ruling in favor of the displaced Marlboro families following evictions in Marlboro South, an industrial area in Sandton, Johannesburg. This ruling rendered the action of the City of Joburg as unlawful and the court called on the parties to “engage meaningfully to reach agreement on the supply of materials for building, the type of shelters allowed to be built and the final date for completion”, according to the Lawyers for Human Rights.

The following resolutions were delivered:

  1. COJ must provide the 141 families with sites in Marlboro.
  2. COJ must provide material for the construction of temporay shelters.
  3. COJ has 4 months to more land if needed to accomodate the 141 families.
  4. COJ must start a meaningful engagement regarding the balance of families evicted later during the month of August.
  5. COJ must pay all legal costs.

Louise du Plessis, attorney for LHR’s Land and Housing Unit, was cited in the Lawyers for Human Rights press release,

This is a significant settlement in getting the City to provide the building materials but the onus is now on the City to deliver on its responsibilities to the community and to engage with everyone involved. We are happy that our clients will be able to get their own shelter and hope that this is the last time that a municipality will use excuses like sinkholes, dilapidated buildings and bylaws to act unlawfully and evict occupiers without following due process

The Marlboro settlement, and more specifically the Warehouse Crises Committee, is a networked structure under the Informal Settlement Network. In September, the ISN organised a provincial wide solidarity march to raise the plight of the poor struggling against evictions and lack of meaningful engagement with the cities of Joburg, Ekurhuleni, Tswane, Mogale City, and Midvaal municipality. Subsequent meetings with the office of the Gauteng premier has been around the formation of memorandums of understanding between affected informal settlement communities and city governments, with clearly defined schedules of activities attached. While these informal settlements wait for government to get its house in order, communities have been implementing small scale improvement projects through the Community Upgrading Finance Facility.


In Johannesburg, Communities March Against Evictions

ISN Gauteng solidarity march from South African SDI Alliance on Vimeo.

By South African SDI Alliance

On Tuesday the 11th September, thousands of shack dwellers from Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the mining belt), Tswane (Pretoria) and smaller towns and cities such as Mogale City, Midvaal, and Sedibeng gathered on Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown, Johannesburg. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and evictions.

The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities that have been engaging in vain with local and metropolitan governments in the Gauteng Province. After more than a month’s intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived in their masses on taxis and busses. More than 100 settlements were represented.

ISN handed out t-shirts with large slogans reading “no upgrading without us”. The sea of orange, green, yellow, red, black and white rallied around the procession leaders from ISN. At 11am, the march started and continued on Bree Street. The City was brought to a stand still as shack dwellers marched peacefully in solidarity of the campaign against poor service delivery, land and tenure, evictions and disenfranchisement from decision making processes. The tall buildings of Joburg’s Central Business District enhanced the procession music.

The march was a roaring success and the ISN proved their proved their point: the voices of the poor are to be respected and acted upon. People in informal settlements are organising to promoted people-centred, pro-poor and inclusive city building. Only when the poor are central partners in development can cities be socially sustainable.

Read more about the march:

This is the memorandum handed over to the Premier’s office:


Communities Continue Fight Against Evictions in Johannesburg

Evictions in Marlboro

By Kwanele Sibanda, CORC South Africa 

As had been agreed upon in last night’s mass meeting, in Marlboro Industrial Area, Johannesburg, the Marlboro residents began to mobilize one another and demonstration began as early as 3am on Wednesday. Throughout the protest, no arrests took place. Only roads leading into the community were barricaded. Teargas was only fired once when the residents attempted to barricade the old Pretoria road opposite the Total Garage. The demonstration and barricading of roads was done by the residents to protect themselves and shelters from further destruction by the JMPD as well as drawing the attention of the officials that include the councillor and the Mayor. The protest ended at about 11am. The leadershisp then decided to go and meet with the station commander of Bramley Police Station (SAPS).

Evictions in Marlboro

The leadership, with support from four ISN members and CORC, met with the Station commander and five other officers who were present during the demonstration. The purpose of the meeting was to request the SAPS to play a mediating role in the conflict between the concerned residents and the JMPD. The Marlboro residents expressed their disappointment in the lawlessness being demonstrated by the JMPD in spite of the community’s efforts to engage in formal legal procedures. In addition to the above, a background of the eviction was given and this was outlined up to the current desicion made by the High Court. The station commander had a full understating of the community’s position and his response was that it is in his best of interest to protect the community, however in so doing he does not want the SAPS to be caught up in legal issues without proper knowledge of the current court ruling.

Evictions in Marlboro

Before the arrival at the police station, the SAPS had already been given a letter by the City’s legal representatives that states that the Judge’s ruling only allowed the residents to occupy the open space ERF 799 and 1008, but hindered them from erecting any form of shelter. In so doing the City’s lawyers did not provide the court interdict to the SAPS. The provision of the original interdict copy by the residents and the explanation that if the CITY/JMPD disputed the court’s ruling or could not comprehend enhanced the understanding of the SAPS in the sense that the JMPD/CITY was supposed to make an urgent court application for further clarity from the High Court. While the meeting progressed, the station commander immediately contacted one of the JMPD head of officers and immediately arranged a meeting that will be facilitated by the SAPS. By the time the meeting ended, attempts where still being made to contact the City Officials so that they can also be part of the meeting. The JMPD agreed to avail themselves and it was agreed that the meeting shall be held at the Bramley Police Station on 23 August 2012 at 9am. The community leaders shall take part in the meeting with support from ISN and CORC.

During the day, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) arrived on site to assess the situation on the ground. Their site visit was mainly triggered by the letter they received yesterday from the city’s legal representatives who deny knowledge of yesterday’s destruction of shelters erected on ERF 799 and 1008 after the court had authorised the temporal return of the former residents of the aforemetioned sites until the 29th of August when the matter is finalised. Before the end of day yesterday, LHR had already made an urgent interim interdict application to the high court. Tomorrow at 10am the matter shall be heard in court. The leaders of Marlboro have already deployed members to attend the SAPS/JMPD meeting at 9am as well as the High Court matter at 10am.

The Dark Side of Planning: On the Demolition of Chico’s Ice Cream Factory

Yesterday we reported to you about evictions taking place in Marlboro Industrial Area of Johannesburg. Today we have a full write up from the South African SDI Alliance on the evictions, and the ways in which FEDUP, ISN and CORC have been fighting against this brutality. 

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

By Walter Fieuw, CORC

On the 13th of August, heavy machinery rolled in on the tattered and teared Marlboro Industrial area. Charles and Tapelo, community leaders in Marlboro, had to look on as the bulldozers started tearing into Chico’s Ice Cream Factory, which was home to 109 families, or 282 people. Chico’s Ice Cream Factory is but one of 53 derelict buildings that the Marboro community, in partnership with ISN and CORC, enumerated between September and October 2011. Community members were trained to administer the questionnaire and worked closely with the CORC Johannesburg office in capturing the data into databases.

Early in August, the Alliance reported on the evictions that started on August 2nd when Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) cracked down on the settlement with no eviction order. In the early morning hours, when residents were leaving for work, the JMPD moved in on 3 occupied sites and demolished 300 dwellings. They refused to talk to the community leadership and presented no formal interdiction from the court, only offering NGO representatives a hand written statement in a note book as paperwork for such eviction. They claimed that notice was given with no supporting documentation, then went on to say they don’t need to give notice because the of the 72 hour trespassing by-law which according to legal representatives requires even more paperwork than a general eviction order. The JMPD has not communicated its mandate with the housing department and now as result over 400 residents of Marlboro are now out on the street with no alternative housing options.

Evictions have been ravaging the area since the 2nd of August, leaving many people homeless. The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), and more specifically, the by-laws management department, have been carrying out these illegal evictions. These are illegal, because according the laws protecting poor people from the onslaughts of local governments and/or land owners, the evicting party needs to formally obtain an eviction order, which is granted by regional courts. In these hearings, the judges consider all the aspects of the evicting party’s request, which includes whether alternatives to upgrading has been considered (such as upgrading the informal area), what the impact on vulnerable people would be (woman, children and the elderly), and what the relocation options are (such as consolidation with other informal areas, housing developments, etc). Constitutional Court cases have resulted in a number of processes that needs to be adhered too. The JMPD did not follow any of these legal routes, and have been on a rouge mission to clear the Marlboro area of all informal settlers.

Chico’s is one such a factory that is now being destroyed, and all 282 inhabitants have been displaced. Although the Alliance, through the Community Upgrading Financing Facility, have been able to secure three army-style tents to the value of R30,000, this merely serves 40 families. More tents are now forthcoming as relief donations are trickling into Marlboro area. There does not seem to be any hope that the residents of Chico’s will be sleeping in even the most elementary accommodation for the next while.

The factory used to have a very peculiar housing typology. To make more space available, the community built a sturdy 2nd level of shack above the first. These pictures illustrate the nature of settlement in one of these factories.

With the decline in industrial activity in the late 1980s, the factory owners rented out these buildings to poor families living in overcrowded conditions in neighboring townships such as Alexandra. Charles, a community leader in the area, mentioned that

the history here is actually that people started staying in these factories. They were renting because some owners advertised for rentals. So the people came in their numbers. But later on, the City actually gave some court orders that people had to vacate. We boycotted that and went back to the owners and they ran away and stayed with the City. We had a media statement that says we can not be moved from these areas unless they have an alternative. So that is how they started staying in these buildings.

Chico’s used to be an Ice Cream factory located on 4th street, where not even the brave footsoldiers of Google Streetview dared to venture (when dragging the Google Streetview icon over Marlboro area, on 5th Street is covered). But the enumeration of Chico’s, as with all other 53 factories in the Marlboro area, goes much deeper than technology can reach. The enumeration has captured a socio-economic and demographic profile of all the residents that used to live here. Although the residents have faced fires in the past, such as the 18 June 2010 fire that destroyed a large number of shacks, as reported by Africa Media Online, the community has been able to regroup and assist those who lost it all. These social ties are more than moral solidarity but display the resilience of communities to adapt and recover.

Chico’s factory is also called Building 77. These building were referenced by these numbers before the enumeration started. The enumeration data therefore has two levels: by building, and by shack number (which was numbered in the enumeration exercise). By referencing both building data and shack data, a common dataset is developed that serves as the basis for spatially tagging enumeration data. In this way, the data becomes alive. The data tells the stories of what used to be left of Chico’s Ice Cream factory.

In October 2011, CORC produced a short video documenting the impressions of Marlboro community leaders on the enumeration process. At 2:18 in the video, an interview with a young man living in Chico’s is captured. He said,

I live here in Chico’s. I have been living here for 11 years. I stay with my mother. Here in Chico’s we are very poor, if I can put it like that.

In another interview, a young man living with his girlfriend said the following when asked by Charles what his expectations are for development in the area:

Up to date, I have been living in this area. Now the problem that I am having is unavailability of jobs and better accommodation. From the information I am receiving from different people, there are promises to improve the area, but I don’t know how long it is going to take.

CORC has drafted a preliminary enumeration report on the findings. The enumeration breaks down the enumeration data of all 53 factories and categorises the findings by population statistics, migration, education levels, social grant recipients, occupation and income levels, and finally, tracks the communities’ development aspirations. On the enumeration process, Charles said

The ISN and FEDUP have introduced a programme of enumeration. So with the enumeration, we are trying to arm ourselves and say to the City, “We are the people of Marlboro. How many are we? We stay in a space of this size”. And so we will be able to talk how then the development will be. So we hope with the programme of the FEDUP and ISN we believe that something will come up. We are saving, and saying to the government, “This is what we are doing, then can you come in and join us in making the area we are living in better”.

Charle’s wishes will not realise. Chico’s have been destroyed. But the sword cuts both ways. While the positive side of community based knowledge generation through enumeration, as experience by millions of people making up the federations aligned to Shack / Slum Dwellers International (see this series of research papers), materialises citizenship when this grassroots knowledge drives development agendas, the data will now be used as a protections mechanism in the court of law. The community possess the most detailed data on the individuals and families affected in the evictions. The sword of knowledge will now be deployed to fight back on the inhumane and draconian actions of the City of Joburg.

Marlboro community is working alongside Lawyers for Human Rights and instructed them instructed to demand an end to the evictions and failing that, to proceed on an urgent basis to the High Court for relief. Said Louise du Plessis, senior attorney in LHR’s Land and Housing Unit,

This situation is shocking. The law is clear. There are countless court orders requiring a court order before an eviction can take place. This blatant disregard for what the courts have repeatedly said is especially worrying considering JMPD is tasked with upholding the law.

Who are giving these orders? Are the factory owners involved in the eviction process, or is this a rouge mission by the JMPD? These are the questions that the community with support by CORC and Lawyers for Human Rights will be uncovering.


Showcase at Ruimsig: Partnerships at Work


**Cross-posted from the South African SDI Alliance Blog**

An exhibition will soon open at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, which will showcase the recent, successful partnership between the residents of Ruimsig, a small informal settlement on the north-western periphery of Johannesburg, the SA SDI Alliance and the University of Johannesburg, Department of Architecture.  Ruimsig serves as the site for a pioneering studio for architecture students which aims to highlight the necessity and challenges that come within-situ upgrading in the informal context. Partnerships with the community, several NGOs, as well as the National Upgrade Support Programme (NUSP), have been put in place to ensure that the work produced by the students is closely informed by inhabitants’ immediate and long-term needs. Students, teachers and residents have worked together intensely, in a temporary studio in the settlement, to produce a map towards the sensitive ‘re­blocking’ (or site-specific formalisation) of Ruimsig. Apart from the primary re-blocking exercise, various site-specific strategies, for short and long-term upgrading and sustainable growth of the settlement, were also work-shopped and tested, together with the community.

On the 1st of September, the project outcomes were exhibited to community leaders and residents of Ruimsig, as well as to representatives from the SA SDI Alliance, NUSP, project partners and officials from the City of Johannesburg.

As a pilot project its significance is potentially catalytic as its realisation will exemplify government’s goal of upgrading 400 000 informal households by 2014. In this context, students collaborated with ‘Community Architects’ from Ruimsig over a period of seven weeks. The collaboration with Ruimsig residents led to the development and illustration of strategies for the sensitive community-driven upgrading and formalisation of the existing settlement. This exercise builds on the inherent spatial qualities of a settlement which has, over a period of more or less 25 years, grown and evolved into a vibrant, dynamic and self-designed place.

The exhibition at Goethe on Main, opening on Thursday, September 21, will make a summary of the project – and its layered and complex process – available to a broader public. The collected work on exhibition until the 2ndOctober 2011 will portray, primarily through film, the challenging dynamics inherent in the teaching of this course, and the necessary shift required by architects, educators and officials to acknowledge and engage with the informal city and its networks.

For detailed documentation of the Ruimsig project and process, please visit