South Africa

#Mots-clés : Eviction Dernière mise à jour le 7 June 2019
This page has been translated with Google Translation



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A museum of traditional housing offers a museum built after a movie: Video habitat traditional





1 – The texts

The best example of the recognition of the right to housing as a fundamental right is the Constitution of South Africa. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in section 26 Housing Act, says:

  1. Everyone has a right to have access to adequate housing.
  2. The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures , within its available resource, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.
  3. No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.

Its Section 28 states that:

1. Every child has the right to housing.

The South African Constitution (Sections 7 and 8) also provides that the State has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to housing, which applies to all branches (executive, legislative and judicial) and all levels of government (local, provincial and national levels).

Source : CETIM

2 – History of the Right to Housing

At the end of apartheid, the objective of the new government installed (1980) was to provide the population “permanent residential structures with secure tenure, privacy and adequate protection against the elements ”. (in Housing Subsidy Scheme department of Housing, Pretoria, 1995, 222 p.)

The right to housing is a recognised prime need for every human being. Different laws of countries, treaties and charters promote and protect this right. Housing crisis is a subject that requires special and professional address towards permanent and satisfactory solutions worldwide.

In this perspective, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) prone the obligations of the states to assure that human rights (the right to housing included) of the people are promoted in accordance with the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations. Signed twenty years ago, this covenant, was only ratified earlier this year by South Africa. In addition, the Constitution of South Africa provides for everyone accessibility to adequate housing and no one to be evicted prior provision of an alternative accommodation.

Yet, affordable accommodations are currently scarce in South Africa and particularly in the inner-city of Johannesburg for mid and low class residents. The reasons could be attributed to overcrowding and jobless in the area. In fact, about 23000 under resource people earning less than R 800 a month live in very bad conditions with inadequate services. (Anna Cox at the inner-city evictions summit, 09/11/15). The private sector is delivering housing for those earning between R1 500 and R2 000. (Johannesburg Development Agency consultant Andreas Bertoldi at the inner-city evictions summit).


In the light of the previsions of art. 26 of the Constitution of South Africa, majority of under resource communities residing the inner-city of Johannesburg are denied their right to adequate housing and basic services.

This can be verified looking at two different aspects namely :

  • The city as prime responsible provider of the housing for its residents;
  • Alternative accommodation in the inner city of Johannesburg

1 – The city responsible provider of the housing for its residents

At the inner-city evictions summit, Mayor Parks Tau said that: There are people who can afford to pay and they should not be hiding behind the poor. They should be paying rent and making their contributions to assist the poor, who often, because of their financial circumstances, cannot afford to pay,”

The reality on the ground is that the growing demand of accommodation is far above the supply available in terms of allocated lands and financial limitations in the inner-city of Johannesburg. The population is composed of multi-racial residents who come from all over the world in search of better conditions of living. Their focus presence in the area engenders the raise of joblessness, the dilapidation of buildings due to overcrowding and difficulty to maintain.

The city of Johannesburg, as representative of the Government’s target is to construct some 16000 affordable units in the short to medium term in order to resolve the problem of accommodation in this area. (Inner-city evictions summit). The city bases its concern the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977, “which concerns the City’s ability to exercise its statutory powers and duties to prevent dangerous living conditions in its area of jurisdiction”. (5)

However the problem is not solved but it becomes more and worse. The number of the jobless people living in bad buildings expands on a daily basis. The conditions of living are unacceptable and stimulate serious wealth concern.

2 – Alternative accommodation in the inner-city of Johannesburg

“Every month, the City receives 300 eviction applications. At present more than 5 000 residents in the inner city and surrounding areas are facing evictions’. The city has identified 1000 buildings to be renovated and converted into temporary accommodation for evictees, as required by the law. (Inner-city evictions summit)

The condition of living in the “bad buildings” is conducting the city to evict the tenants and relocate them elsewhere. Yet, the relocation is not welcomed favourably to evictees who prefer their current places near to all facilities such as schools, hospitals, shops and job places. Residents of the inner-city request houses in the inner-city where they are happy to live near all their main activities.

Residents in those buildings who primarily were tenants become unlawfully occupiers in the views of the owners and the city when the building deteriorates. (City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality and Others v Hlophe and Others (1035/2013) [2015] ZASCA 16; [2015] 2 All SA 251 (SCA) (18 March 2015))

“In January 2014 the City of Johannesburg made an application to the South Gauteng High Court for an order directing that pending the final determination of Dladla and Others v City of Johannesburg and Others (Dladla), the final eviction applications in over 30 matters be stayed. This would mean that legal proceedings would be postponed in these cases till the Dladla case is finalised. SERI represents over 1 100 people in a number of these cases, including Soper Road, Changing Tides and Jeanwell Court.”( stay application – evictions – City of Johannesburg – South Gauteng High Court)

This proves sufficiently that the city is falling to provide temporary accommodation where conditions of living are adequate for the residents of the inner-city of Johannesburg.

3 – Conclusion

By ratifying the ICESCR, South Africa undertook, not only to provide adequate standard of living for the people, but also to assure the continuous improvement of conditions of living for them as enshrined by the provisions of art.11.

However, the reality on the ground is showing an opposite picture of what was meant to be. Living conditions in the bad buildings are deteriorating and alternative accommodation are not properly managed to remain temporary. It is time that South Africa “take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.”(Art. 11 ICESCR)

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Johannesburg inner city evictions (Local Government Action)

4 – What about the social housing ? (8)

The Johannesburg Social Housing Company (JOSHCO) was introduced to the people as they were going to come up with a solution to housing issues in Johannesburg inner city and to the shortage of accommodation also to take into consideration the low incomers and people who doesn’t have permanent employment in the city of Johannesburg.

But looking at the requirements needed in order to get a place in these flats owned by these companies are way out of people who are not working, it not easy for a person to have a three(3) months bank statement while he/she is not working, what would reflect on it?

Not to talk of a payslip, those are things which leads to having only people who are high earners renting those flats because they can afford. A person should earn R2000 to R7500 per month, if not its means there is no place for you in the inner city.

This lives people not having a descent place to stay which they can afford, it also pushes people to occupy the buildings which are empty in the city of which they end up calling it home. Not knowing when they will be evicted as the processes of evictions are excluding the occupiers.

5 – Meaningful engagement (8)

It has been many years whereby the City of Johannesburg was evicting the occupiers of “bad building” 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. For example, 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.

From then the occupiers were given alternative accommodation to nearby place and they are still living there. Why is this case case important?

  1. It stopped the city from evicting people without providing alternative accommodation,
  2. It putted into light that a meaningful engagement is needed before any eviction can happen.

However, this stopped for a short period of time as evictions continue to happen and none of the people are taken into consideration by the municipality.

People are also tired of being evicted, on 29 September 2015, after occupiers has been evicted by the Red Ants in the building situated in Jeppestown, moments after they were kicked out the building was set on fire.

In this case we talk of families including children which were not catered for while Section 28(1)c of the Constitution of the RSA says every child has a right to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services.




  • Homelessness
  • Joungpeople
  • Old people
  • Women


  • There is a kind of experimental university in Johannesburg working to develop – in collaboration with other universities around the world including the Sydney – simple solutions and inexpensive face the problem of waste in squatter. Source: WASSUP, Design with the other]] – WASSUP = Water, Amenities and Sanitation Services Project upgrate
  • Urban gardens are set up to help the poorest to meet their need for food in some neighborhoods. Source: Video Project Alibami




The black population was located in neighborhoods racially separated (Group Areas Act) consisting mainly of informal settlements, either in formal constructions known as townships. The Group Areas Act: the government of the day wanted the blacks away as possible from the cities. They could not reach the city with a work permit, the city was planned according to a logic racial and economic status of residents was precarious. Indeed, black people did not have access to the property before the 80s and could not get a very specific term rental (10 years and 30 years). The townships are initially sparse spaces and undiversified, therefore do not offer the benefits of urbanity.

In 1950, the Group Areas Act divided the city along racial lines: white city on one side, the other townships. These townships included standardized houses (the Matchboxes) in streets very uniform. The government has built many houses of this type between 1950 and 1967, and wanting to fight against the informal settlements.

Then the South African government has embarked on the construction of homelands, but these units have had little success. The matchsboxes have continued to develop and the first informal housing in the form of backyard shacks (precarious constructions backyard) and squatter camps.

The end of the apartheid government marks the end of the policy of urban construction. Thus, in the late ’80s squatter camps have become increasingly numerous, showing the severity of the housing crisis.

The Housing Subsidy Scheme: the end of apartheid has brought South Africa in transition. In 1992, the National Housing Forum (NHF) is created and aims to restructure the institutions that operated in the apartheid era, offering new directions. However, the phrase “a family, a site” tends to promote urban sprawl and make cities viable apartheid, rather than radically transform the structures of the city.


The country lacks more than one and a half million housing units (1998), the legacy of apartheid policy and reinforced by the lack of resources for people. The historical past of the country (apartheid) explains urban imbalances leading to major problems of urban planning. 7 million people live in informal settlements with little infrastructure.



Example of Informal Housing in Shantytown (Thesis of S. Matheson)

Example of informal Housing in Shantytown (thesis of S. Matheson)

The government’s goal is to formalize informal settlements (2700 informal settlements identified in the country). The Breaking New Ground – BNG – aims to eradicate this type of housing in the shortest possible time. This policy aims to develop social housing, provide services Ingénieurie and amenities such as schools – clinics – shops.



Social Housing (picture from Rooftops Canada)Revitalising in Johannesburg (Rooftops Canada)

Social Housing (pictures Rooftops Canada)

«Social Housing is a rental or co-operative housing option which requires institutionalised management which is provided by accredited SHIs or in accredited social housing projects in designated restructuring zones.»
Source :

Revitalizing Hillbrow, one of Johannesburg’s most troubled inner city areas. (Barry Pinsky, Rooftops Canada Executive Director)

1990 The new housing policy was designed to be the cornerstone of this new inclusive government. Despite good intentions, it does not start.
2002 … creating NASHO, Federation of Social Housing Companies that conducts research, training, lobbying and restarts the social housing policy by saying that it will contribute to urban regeneration.

Log social afrique du sudLog Afrique du Sud


Several grants are available to people:

  • PEOPLE HOUSING PROCESS: Assistance is given to communities or organized groups of households who want to self-build housing, a fund under PHP (People’s Housing Process = Process Popular Housing). Training and technical assistance can be part of this assistance.


  • Individual grants which, as the case may be granted through the bank. It is important to note that this assistance is given equally to both members of the household!
  • Subsidies for household groups. In this case, candidates must go through a long and complex process.
  • Subsidies to renovate its housing
  • Grants to non-profit organizations (Institutional Subsidy) that can buy – renovate – build houses that make these homes available.
  • A new grant has been offered since 2012, so that those who earn too much money to get a subsidy from the government, but not enough to access a bank loan can still be helped to obtain housing.



Bibliography & Sitography

  1. Documents du CETIM
  2. Centre on Housing Rights Evictions – Website COHRE
  3. “Politique du logement et politiques urbaines dans la nouvelle Afrique du Sud”, Ph. Guillaume (IFAS), 1998.
  4. IAI – World Map for South-Africa for the Inhabitants Session in Africities VII, 2015
  8. Thabani Nxumalo (ICRC) – Worldmap for South Africa for the Inhabitants Session in Africities VII.





  • COMMUNICARE = the oldest social housing company non-profit in the country. Following the huge housing crisis of the 20s, a group of citizens created this company to create housing for the poor and encourage solidarity among fellow citizens. It was called / / Citizen’s Housing League Utility Company / /. Its goal is to create affordable housing by creating sustainable communities integrated. Their main action is to provide social housing, but they also work to enable people to obtain land rights. Video on the housing situation and the action of the company website COMMUNICARE Contact Them.
  • ISLANDA INSTITUTE = an organization that develops the concept of right to the city and works in partnership with social movements and NGOs. Their three areas of work are active citizenship, urbanism in connection with the allocation of resources and local governance. They support the right to live in the city, the right of access to resources and the right to the creation of the city by its citizens.
  • SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS INSTITUTE – SERI (of South Africa) = non-profit organisation providing professional, dedicated and expert socio-economic rights assistance to individuals, communities and social movements in South Africa. SERI conducts applied research, engages with government, advocates for policy and legal reform, facilitates civil society coordination and mobilisation, and litigates in the public interest (the SERI Law Clinic is registered as a public interest law centre). Thematic are : housing and evictions – access to basic services – political space. SERI-SA WebsiteContact them.