Category Archives: slums act

Transitory Citizens: Contentious Housing Practices in Contemporary South Africa

Kerry Chance, Social Analysis

This article examines the informal housing practices that the urban poor use to construct, transform, and access citizenship in contemporary South Africa. Following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, the provision of formalized housing for the urban poor has become a key metric for ‘non-racial’ political inclusion and the desegregation of apartheid cities. Yet, shack settlements—commemorated in liberation histories as apartheid-era battlegrounds—have been reclassified as ‘slums’, zones that are earmarked for clearance or development. Evictions from shack settlements to government emergency camps have been justified under the liberal logic of expanding housing rights tied to citizenship. I argue that the informal housing practices make visible the methods of managing ‘slum’ populations, as well as an emerging living politics in South African cities.

One World: Shack Dwellers Fight Demolition in S. Africa Court

Shack Dwellers Fight Demolition in S. Africa Court
May 15, 2009

WASHINGTON, May 15 ( – A Durban-based collective of shack dwellers is challenging a law that would displace thousands from their homes in an attempt to beautify the city ahead of next year’s soccer World Cup.

“As South Africa prepares for the 2010 soccer World Cup, the government has made plans to develop ‘World Class Cities’ by eliminating the ‘slums’ which are home to millions,” explains the economic justice group War on Want. On Thursday, Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM), a Durban-based shack-dweller movement, challenged the so-called Slums Act in South Africa’s Constitutional Court, continuing its campaign for improved living conditions and against involuntary removal. (Read the full statement below from War on Want.)

The Slums Act calls for the relocation of shack dwellers to “transit camps,” in what is said to be a temporary measure. Government representatives say the act aims to eliminate the shanty developments, prevent their re-emergence, and improve the living conditions of the communities in the province, reports South Africa’s Business Day newspaper. But ABM and their allies argue that the livelihoods of many shack dwellers depend on living close to their jobs or schools, and many would be forced to pay the vast majority of their earnings just for transportation back and forth to the “transit camps.” Others worry that the measure will not be as temporary as promised, and that the camps will not provide decent water and sanitation facilities.

Some 1,000 people from across South Africa protested the Slums Act in front of the Constitutional Court Thursday, according to The Citizen newspaper. It has been estimated that about 10 percent of South Africans still live in shanty-style developments, which were first set up on the outskirts of major towns and cities during white minority rule, explains the BBC. Community leaders fear that if the Act is allowed to stand and evictions move forward in Durban, a similar fate will soon befall shack dwellers across the country.

“In the eThekwini municipality, which includes the city of Durban, almost half of the African population — and one third of the general population — live in a shack,” reports War on Want. Moreover, many are faced with persistent health, environmental, and educational problems. The Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) movement, which in Zulu means “people living in shacks,” began in 2005 with a mission to promote the rights of shack dwellers and improve social services. Today, explains War on Want, the movement encompasses “tens of thousands of people from over 35 shack settlements concentrated in the area around Durban.” For video of ABM members explaining the impact of the Slums Act, click here.

South African shack dwellers challenge Slums Act in court

From: War on Want

13 May 2009

As South Africa prepares for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the government has made plans to develop ‘World Class Cities’ by eliminating the ‘slums’ which are home to millions. This week our partner organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo is set go before the Constitutional Court to challenge the Slums Act, a law that will displace thousands from their homes.

In November 2008 Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM, literally ‘people living in shacks’), a Durban-based shack dweller movement and War on Want partner organisation, applied to the Durban High Court in order to challenge the constitutionality of the Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act. This Act, which was introduced by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in 2007, is expected to lead to a large number of evictions of shack dwellers from their homes to temporary housing in so-called ‘transit camps’. These camps are often located far away from vital services and job opportunities, and many lack decent water and sanitation facilities.

While the government refers to the camps as ‘temporary’, many shack dwellers fear that they will be stuck in ‘government shacks’ for years. Organisations such as ABM are campaigning for an upgrading of existing shack settlements and for the right of shack dwellers to a place in the city and against being dumped on the outskirts of urban areas in ‘transit camps’.

Despite the organisation’s efforts to contest the constitutionality of the Slums Act, the Durban High Court dismissed ABM’s application in January 2009, arguing that the Slums Act would make “things more orderly in this province” and that “the Act must be given a chance to show off its potential to help deal with problems of slums and slum conditions”. The court outcome was a big blow to poor shack dwellers in KwaZulu-Natal Province whose livelihoods in many ways depend on living near to their places of work. Workers who have been moved to the camps are forced to spend the vast bulk of their income on transport.

In order to protect the right to a place in the city, ABM has now taken the Slums Act to the Constitutional Court. On the eve of the court challenge on Thursday 14 May 2009, War on Want supports ABM’s fight for shack dwellers’ right to the city and its struggle for the safety, dignity and equality of the poor.