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/