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Johannesburg inner city evictions
The following case study explains the steps that poor people in the Johannesburg inner city took when the government wanted to evict them from their flats.
Meaningful engagement and alternative accommodation in inner city Johannesburg
For many years, the City of Johannesburg was evicting occupiers of “bad buildings” in the inner city because of health and safety concerns and its broader Inner City Regeneration Strategy. The City evicted thousands of people who could not afford market rates for housing. In 2006, occupiers of two buildings in Berea and Hillbrow teamed up with the Inner City Resource Centre (ICRC) and human rights lawyers to resist their eviction and request suitable alternative accommodation in the area. In 2007, the Olivia Road case went to the Constitutional Court, which ordered a process of “meaningful engagement” between the occupiers and the municipality. After the two sides talked about the situation (meaningful engagement), the Court facilitated a settlement agreement between the occupiers and the City, which provided the occupiers with interim services at the buildings and a plan for them to move to nearby alternative accommodation – they are still living in the new buildings today. The case is important for two reasons. It stopped the City from evicting the occupiers without providing alternative accommodation and it also brought the need for meaningful engagement in eviction cases to the attention of judges throughout the country, which means that it is now the law that if municipalities want to evict people, they have to discuss alternative housing options with the affected people.
In April 2011, a judge ordered the City of Johannesburg to provide emergency housing – water and sanitation, as well as improved shelter – to a group of 200 people who the City had illegally evicted without meaningful engagement or providing alternative accommodation.
Court Orders the City of Johannesburg to provide Emergency Housing to people who had been illegally evicted and were living on a refuse dump
On 19 April 2011, the Johannesburg High Court declared 200 people living next to a Pikitup waste dump near Roodepoort, to be in an emergency housing situation. The Judge found that the living conditions were terrible, with no access to water and sanitation, and a risk of flooding. He ordered the City of Johannesburg to provide water and sanitation to the Marie Louise informal settlement community by 13 May 2011, and improved shelter by 15 July 2011. The decision came after the occupiers had been illegally evicted by Pikitup, the City’s refuse collection agency, in 2009. The occupiers moved to land owned by Rand Leases Properties, next to a dumping site, from which they salvaged waste material to make a living. Rand Leases then brought an eviction application, subject to the City being compelled to engage the occupiers and provide them with alternative accommodation. The occupiers decided to fight the eviction, and went to lawyers from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), which helped them to get justice. Judge Victor’s order provides for the occupiers to remain on the Rand Lease’s property with access to water, improved shelter and sanitation for a period of 18 months, during which the City must consult them and identify suitable land to accommodate them in the longer term.