Category Archives: The Citizen

Media Reports on the Slums Act Case in the Constitutional Court

Anti-Eviction Campaign, Abahlali baseMjondolo and Landless People's Movement banners outside the Constitutional Court

Update:Click here for the report in the Mail & Guardian, here for the report at One.World, , here for the editorial in the Witness and here for some video footage of the court hearing.

The Star
Slum bill draws vocal protest from three provinces

May 15, 2009 Edition 4

Bonile Ngqiyaza

A provincial law that apparently seeks to eliminate slums in KwaZulu-Natal has got even far-flung parts of the country in a huff.

The bill with a burdensome title – the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act – has not even been implemented yet, but already between 300 and 500 activists from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have been in the Constitutional Court in Braamfontein, Joburg, to demonstrate their opposition.

Clad in red T-shirts, the activists expressed their dissatisfaction, mostly by singing protest songs outside the Constitutional Court.

There were also church leaders from different denominations who attended the hearing to show support for those who might be affected by the intended act's provisions.

The Land Affairs Department has joined KwaZulu-Natal MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu as respondents in the case.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers' movement – whose membership includes more than 20 000 residents of informal settlements in the Durban area alone – has been spearheading the attack on the bill, which is intended as a model for all provinces.

Advocate Wim Trengove, for Abahlali baseMjondolo, argued that the law seemed to be in conflict with the National Housing Act and national housing policy, as well as with certain provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke remarked that while the act's aims were to improve the living conditions of communities, it carried no detailed plans to ensure that this happened.

Also, the phrase dealing with improving the living conditions of communities came only at the end.

Lawyers for the government responded that the act had not yet been implemented and it was therefore premature to challenge it.


South Africa shanty town bill row

An estimated one in 10 South Africans live in informal settlements

The South African government is being taken to court over plans to abolish shanty towns in the city of Durban.

Community organisations representing Durban shack dwellers say the bill is unconstitutional because it seeks to re-locate residents against their will.

They say many have schooling and work nearby and the move could mean families being separated.

It has been estimated that almost 10% of South Africans still live in such settlements.

They were first set up on the outskirts of major towns and cities during white minority rule.

The shack dwellers' movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, tried unsuccessfully to get certain provisions of the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act declared unlawful in a lower court.

'Within the law'

The movement is now bringing its case to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.

The campaigners warn that if the act is introduced in KwaZulu-Natal, it will be brought in to other provinces.

It says a few informal settlements have already been demolished in Western Cape province.

The respondents, led by the Department of Land Affairs, are adamant they are acting within the constitution.

Community leader Zweli Nzimande told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "This is not a good act at all. It's taking people far away from where they are staying, to the places where they don't want to go.

"This act is saying people must leave where they used to stay.

"Now they must go 10km (six miles) away from the city, so we are complaining. We are schooling, our parents are working nearby so they can't afford to go somewhere far away."

The BBC's Mpho Lakje in Johannesburg says that when the African National Congress came to power 15 years ago it promised free quality housing for all.

So far the governing party has provided housing for nearly three million people and President Jacob Zuma has promised his new administration will speed up the roll out of state-subsidised housing

The Citizen,1,22

Published: 14/05/2009 17:30:43

KZN GOVT defends “Slums Act”

JOHANNESBURG – The KwaZulu-Natal government defended its controversial “Slums Act” in the Constitutional Court on Thursday saying there were at least 200,000 people living in degrading conditions in the province.

“There are people living next to the railway lines in Umlazi in circumstances which are degrading,” said the province’s housing department senior counsel Jeremy Gauntlett.

“The state has to deal with the problem,”said Gauntlett.

“And that means you start treading on various bunions.”

At issue is the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act which the lobby group Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement feels is unfair.

The Act aims to eliminate slums, prevent new slums from developing and control and upgrade existing slums.

But the lobby group, which says it represents about 20,000 shack dwellers, feels the act is being used to harass them.

One of their grievances, they argue, is that a section of the Act allowing an MEC to institute eviction proceedings is unconstitutional.

One of the reasons this is unconstitutional is that it strips a local municipality of its own powers, and does not leave room for a land or property owner to take action.

It also forces a land owner or a municipality to carry out an order from the housing MEC to begin eviction proceedings.

Earlier the court heard that many landowners permitted the occupation by shack dwellers for money and out of “greed”.

The judges were also told that a slum was not limited to an informal settlement with poor conditions, but could also be a city building which had been neglected.

Gauntlett said there were remedies for owners or residents facing eviction proceedings.

The owners or occupiers could “attack” notices of eviction in court.

The MEC could use the power “gingerly” and first order a municipality to help rectify the conditions that led to the area becoming a slum, or as a neighbouring municipality to help with, for example, the provision of sanitation.

Gauntlett said that the law was still new and “we must wait to see what the MEC does with this power”, suggesting that the case might be premature as the challenge was not related to a specific eviction attempt.

Much of the court’s argument turned on an English court finding known as “Pye” which set an international precedent in statutory processes that must be followed if there was an eviction dispute between a land owner and person using the land.

Rishi Seegobin,lawyer for the province’s housing department said that the poor were sadly victims of unscrupulous landlords,and that he could find nothing “offensive” in the Act.

He echoed Gauntlett, saying Thursday’s challenge was “abstract” as the Act had not been used yet and did not have regulations yet.

In his reply, Trengove said that not all people letting out shacks were greedy. Many did it for “a few rands” and catered to a need for housing.

– Sapa

The Citizen,1,22

Published: 5/14/2009 21:15:22
Protest against new slums law


JOHANNESBURG – About 1 000 members from various non-governmental
organisations travelled from across the country to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg to protest against the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act.

General secretary of the Rural Network in KZN, Mbhekiseni Mavuso, said his organisation was pledging its support to Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM), which has applied to have the Act declared unlawful under the Constitution.

Their support came because members suffered similar experiences as ABM members, who claimed they were being brutalised and harassed by police.

The Act “is portrayed as preventing the re-emergence of slums. But it is a reinforcement of apartheid laws,” said Mavuso.

ABM says areas replacing “slums” are called transit camps in
KwaZulu-Natal, temporary relocation areas (TRAs) in Cape Town and decent camps in Gauteng.

But “they are nothing but a way for the government to evict the poor, to force people out of the cities, in the name of providing so- called ‘housing opportunities’. ”

On Wednesday Western Cape police were allegedly intimidating backyard dwellers during a clean-up campaign at Macassar village.

ABM Western Cape chairman Mzonke Poni, claimed there was a heavy police presence and people were being intimidated.

This came as backyard dwellers were trying to clean vacant land to show the local and provincial government that there was sufficient land to build houses for people of Macassar at Macassar.

Business Day

Shack dwellers contest slums law in court

Legal Affairs Correspondent

THE KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act was a measure to eliminate the poor conditions in which 200000 families in the province found themselves living, the Constitutional Court heard yesterday.

“National and provincial government have been slow in dealing with the situation. Only last week, 12 people died in fires in Kennedy Road informal settlement. Slums should not be prettified and people should not be exposed to these conditions. We are not apologetic about that,” Jeremy Gauntlett SC told the court.

Gauntlett, representing the provincial government, said apart from the KwaZulu-Natal families living in slums, 2-million other families in SA lived in slums.

The province was opposing an application by Abahlali Basemjondolo, an organisation of shack residents from KwaZulu-Natal, which wanted section 16 of the act declared unconstitutional.

The residents feared the section undermined national legislation such as the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) and the Housing Act, which gave protection for those whose rights to land were insecure.

The section states, “An owner or person in charge of land or a building, which … is already occupied by unlawful occupiers must, within the period determined by the (MEC) by notice in the Gazette, in a manner provided for in section 4 or 5 of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, institute proceedings for the eviction of the unlawful occupiers.”

Wim Trengove SC for the residents, told the court that the section was in conflict with the PIE Act, which discouraged the bringing of eviction proceedings.

Gauntlett said the act aimed to eliminate slums, prevent the re-emergence of slums and improve the living conditions of the communities in the province. Gauntlett said several duties were imposed on the MEC before he could order the institution of eviction proceedings.

He said the act stated that each municipality must first prepare and submit to the MEC a status report detailing the number of existing slums within its area of jurisdiction, and whether land may be made available by the municipality to the unlawful occupiers.

Gauntlett said the act also provided for the establishment of transit areas to be used for temporary accommodation of people who had been evicted from a slum, pending the acquisition of land or buildings for their permanent accommodation.

“This has been missing in legislation in our country. The establishment of transit areas is very progressive,” Gauntlett said.

The court reserved judgment.

East Coast Radio

Concourt hears ‘Slums Act’ challenge

A group from the Abahlali base Mjondolo Movement could be heard chanting outside the Constitutional Court today as inside senior council Wim Trengove argued on their behalf against the “Slums Act”.

Administration worker Jeffrey Magamu had to silence the demonstrating crowd of around 60 people who were singing, chanting and blowing vuvuzelas outside the court.

He asked them to stop singing and fold their banners before allowing them to sit in the court’s foyer where they could watched court proceeding on a TV screen.”Now all is orderly,” he told Sapa.

Only 50 of the protesters were allowed in court.

The group, which works towards improving the living conditions of shack dwellers, had tried unsuccessfully to get certain provisions of the “Slums Act” declared unconstitutional in a lower court, so decided to approach the Constitutional Court.

Trengove explained that the definition of a slum is not confined to conditions in certain informal settlements but can also be inner city buildings that have been allowed to degenerate.

The act would also apply to people who live in rooms in people’s
backyards which have not been sanctioned by municipal authorities.

The court heard that there were “tensions” in law over the rights of owners to let people live on their property, and governmental obligations to evict people from properties that did not comply with building or other municipal regulations, or to make way for upgrades to informal settlements.

The KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act was passed in 2007 by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and the lobby group see it as an “attack on the poor”.

It aims to eliminate slums, prevent new slums from developing and control and upgrade existing slums.

The departments of housing and land affairs are part of the court hearing in Johannesburg.

(Source: Sapa; Photo:

The Times

May 14, 2009

Breaking no new ground

State’s callous slum evictions face constitutional test today, writes Richard Pithouse

TODAY the Constitutional Court will hear the attempt by the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo to have the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act declared unlawful.

Other provinces have been mandated to develop similar legislation and the decision of the court might have a significant impact on the future of our cities.

Thabo Mbeki’s government built a lot of houses. But this does not mean that we have been building democratic and inclusive cities — the apartheid state also built a lot of houses.

In fact, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mbeki’s housing minister, left the state’s housing programme in a catastrophic mess. The “breaking new ground” policy, officially adopted in 2004, recommends democratic engagement with communities with a view to upgrading settlements where they are. It has never been implemented.

The Constitution protects unlawful occupiers of land against summary eviction but the state is the primary perpetrator of systematically unlawful evictions. The state’s actions are, in strict legal terms, routinely criminal.

Both policy and law have been ignored in favour of an increasingly authoritarian discourse around eliminating or eradicating slums. This has led to a deliberate reduction in the provision of basic services to shack settlements and forced removals to out-of-town housing developments and prison-like “transit camps”.

One of the many pernicious consequences of the slum-clearance discourse is that the government ends up measuring its progress on the resolution of the urban crisis in two ways . The first is the reduction in the number of shacks. So, if only half the residents of a settlement are accommodated in a new housing development and the rest are left homeless when their settlement is razed, the state will measure that as progress.

The other way in which progress is measured is by the number of people moved into state-controlled spaces.

And, in a perverse Orwellian move, some municipalities are compounding the damage and turning the urban question into a numbers game by calling the new and deservedly notorious transit camps, or even tents, “housing opportunities”.

So, even when people are forced out of shacks and into transit camps at gunpoint, the statistics show that they have “accessed a housing opportunity”.

It is no surprise that shack dwellers across the country, some organised into movements and others acting independently, have been blocking roads, marching on councillors’ homes and, on the rare occasions when they can access the judicial system, taking the government to court. Entirely legal forms of protest have often been responded to with unlawful state repression.

The Slums Act, passed into law in 2007, is an attempt to give legal sanction to the turn to an outright authoritarian and anti-poor response to the crisis of our cities. It has direct connections to similar colonial and apartheid legislation, such as the 1951 Prevention of Squatting Act. It compels municipalities and private land owners to evict, gives legal sanction to the notorious transit camps and criminalises shack dwellers’ movements.

People have been beaten, shot at with rubber bullets and arrested while protesting against it.

There are currently no grounds for optimism that Zuma’s government will seek a more just and democratic resolution of the urban crisis than that imagined by Mbeki. On the contrary, the ANC’s Polokwane resolutions endorse the extension of the Slums Act to other provinces.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The state could, along with meaningful and pro-poor rural land reform, actively support the efforts of poor people to hold their ground in our cities. It could, for instance, attempt to implement the breaking new ground policy. Or it could take a larger step forward and, following examples in Brazil and the Philippines, implement measures to put the social value of urban land before its commercial value.

Grass-roots activists will be making their way to the Constitutional Court for the hearing today from shack settlements around Johannesburg, and from Durban and Cape Town. We will have to wait to see how the court decides to measure their humanity. We will also have to wait to see how it decides to weigh that humanity against the demand for legislation
that can only, when it comes down to the practicalities of sending out the men with guns to banish the poor from our cities, be a bloody business. — Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University © SACSIS

Bail or death – accused

Bail or death – accused

13 April 2007

DURBAN – High-profile church leaders are expected at a bail hearing today when a group of five shack residents accused of murder appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court.

The five, all members of the Durban group Abahlali Base Mjondolo, have been on a hunger strike in Westville Prison for 12 days.

They are accused of murdering Mzwakhe Sithole, 26, whom the State alleges they beat to death with the assistance of others who have yet to be arrested.

Sithole allegedly mugged and stabbed a resident of the Kennedy Road informal settlement who was out jogging – leaving him for dead after taking his running shoes.

Yesterday S’bu Zikhode, one of the founders of the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali Base Mjondolo, said that after the mugging community members had found Sithole and captured him.

The victim identified Sithole as his attacker. The community then called the police, who arrested the man.
Zikhode said it was believed members of the Kennedy Road settlement had roughed up Sithole – but that he was in good health when arrested.

Zikhode said he understood the man had died some days after he was arrested by the police – and claimed that Sithole was fatally injured while in the custody of Sydenham Road Police Station detectives.

The five accused are in the hospital section of Westville Prison, where prison authorities have been trying to persuade them to end their hunger strike.

On Wednesday the Anglican Archbishop of Durban, Reuben Phillip, visited them in hospital. Zikhode said prison authorities had allowed him and the Archbishop to visit the men in the hope they could be convinced to end their hunger strike.

Zikhode said the five had instructed him to relay the message that they would continue the strike until death unless they were granted bail today.

The State has so far opposed bail, claiming they are still looking for accomplices, and need time to investigate.
The State also claims they may interfere with the investigation.