Letter from CALS and COHRE to the South African Government in support of the residents of Joe Slovo settlement

(Click on the link below to read the original version of the letter on the letterhead.)

26 September 2007
Dr Lindiwe Sisulu
Minister of Housing
Private Bag X654
Tel: +27 12 421 1309
Fax: +27 12 341 8513
Email: mareldia@housing.gov.za

Dear Minister Sisulu

RE: Relocation of Joe Slovo informal settlement residents

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) is an international human rights nongovernmental
organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices throughout the world.

COHRE has consultative status with the United Nations and Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. COHRE works to promote and protect the right to adequate housing for everyone, everywhere, including preventing or remedying forced evictions.
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) is a human rights and public interest law organisation based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

COHRE and CALS wish to express their deep concern over the planned relocation of approximately 6000 Joe Slovo residents to Delft due to the implementation of the second phase of the N2 Gateway housing project. While the Government is offering alternative accommodation at Delft with running water, electricity and toilets, as well as organising for buses to take children to school and other relocation needs, residents are distressed over the
arrangement because Delft is on the outskirts of the city, far from their places of work, job opportunities and schools. The housing to be built on the Joe Slovo site, reportedly, will house only 1000 people and is unlikely to be affordable to the majority of Joe Slovo residents, as it is ‘gap’ housing, intended for those earning between 3,500 and 7,500 rand a month.

Many residents have been living at Joe Slovo for over ten years, establishing a settled community there, and object to the fact that the N2 Gateway housing being built on their homes is unaffordable and hence inaccessible to them. Residents are offering to work with Government to
develop better housing and infrastructure at Joe Slovo, and are at present contesting the application for an eviction order by the Ministry of Housing, following an interim eviction order handed down by the Cape High Court.

On 3 August 2007, residents of Joe Slovo marched in protest against their relocation to Delft to make way for the second phase of the project, demanding that their grievances be heard by Government or further protests would ensue. However, residents argue that there was little real
attempt on behalf of the Government and its housing subsidiary, Thubelisha, to actively engage with the community and address their concerns – but rather representatives merely met with the community to inform them of their fate. The protest attended by approximately 2000 people on the N2 freeway on 10 September 2007 was a response to the lack of consultation and cooperation extended to Joe Slovo residents.

While the Government’s advances in reducing the country’s immense housing backlog and providing low-cost housing are commendable, the eviction of residents from their homes to
outlying areas to make way for those who can afford such housing is counterproductive.

COHRE and CALS respectfully remind the Government of South Africa that in terms of international human rights law, for evictions to be considered as lawful, they may only occur in very exceptional circumstances and all feasible alternatives must be explored in consultation with
affected persons. If, and only if, such exceptional circumstances exist and there are no feasible
alternatives, can evictions be deemed justified. Furthermore, evictions should not result in
rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Governments must therefore, ensure that adequate alternative housing is available to affected persons. General Comment No. 4 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
lists a number of considerations, “which must be taken into account in determining whether particular forms of shelter can be considered to constitute ‘adequate housing’.” These include:
a) Legal security of tenure
b) Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure
c) Affordability
d) Habitability
e) Accessibility
f) Location
g) Cultural adequacy

In particular, General Comment No. 4, section 8(f) explains: “Adequate housing must be in a location which allows access to employment options, health-care services, schools, child-care centres and other social facilities.”
Furthermore, the Government of South Africa is legally bound to respect, protect and fulfil the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Indeed, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2002 found that the African Charter guaranteed the right to adequate housing
including the prohibition on forced eviction (see SERAC and CESR v. Nigeria, ACHRP 2002).

COHRE and CALS urgently request the Ministry of Housing to reconsider the continued plans for the eviction of communities in Joe Slovo and further urges the Ministry to “explore all feasible alternatives” to the planned evictions. If no feasible alternative is available, following indepth consultations with the affected communities, COHRE and CALS strongly urge that the
Ministry abide by international human rights standards, and in particular the legal requirement that affected persons receive adequate alternative housing.

We look forward to your response and to an ongoing dialogue with your office on the rights of its people to adequate housing. Thank you very much for your time and consideration in dealing with these very important issues.


Jean du Plessis Professor Cathi Albertyn
Deputy Director Director
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions Centre for Applied Legal Studies
83 Rue de Montbrillant University of the Witwatersrand
1202 Geneva Wits 2050
Switzerland Johannesburg
Tel: +41 22 734 1028 Tel: +27 11 717 8600
Email: evictions@cohre.org Email: albertync@law.wits.ac.za

cc. Richard Dyantyi
Western Cape Housing and Local Government MEC
Private Bag X9076
Cape Town
Tel: + 27 21 483 4466
Email: shmajiet@pgwc.gov.za

cc. Prince Xhanthi Sigcawu
General Manager, Thubelisha
129 Bree Street
Cape Town
Tel: + 27 21 487 9200
Email: jerimiat@thubelisha.co.za