Residents of Slovo Park informal settlement, South of Johannesburg, have won their 20 year battle with the City of Johannesburg to force it to upgrade their area.
The High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday ruled in their favour.
The residents, assisted by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, approached the High court to compel the City to upgrade Slovo Park in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme.
Residents of Slovo Park informal settlement say they have been assured access to formal services and housing since 1995.
However, till to date nothing has happened. About 10 000 people live in the area with no access to electricity.
With the assistance of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, the community successfully applied to the High Court to compel the City of Johannesburg to take the necessary steps to upgrade their area in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme.
Judge Sharise Weiner read out the judgment.
“The city is directed to make an application to the MEC for funding to upgrade the Slovo Park informal settlement in terms of the upgrading of informal settlements programme within three months from the date of this order. Three, the second, third and fourth respondent shall within four months file with the registrar of this court and on the residents' attorneys a report or reports under oath setting out steps they have taken to comply with the court's order,” says Sharise.
The court also ordered the Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements Paul Mashatile to consider the application within a reasonable time after receiving it, and report to the court within three months as to what steps will be taken to upgrade the informal settlement.
A handful of the residents present in court celebrated their victory.
The city's plans to relocate some of the people to Lenasia south have been scuppered.
It was also instructed to pay the legal costs. Resident Frank Mapara welcomed the court ruling.
“I feel extremely happy. First of all, I would like to thank my fellow committee members and SERI. We have been living in Slovo Park since 1990, begging government to build us houses, but the city of Johannesburg has been sending us for pillar to post. Even before there was Freedom Park, they promised to build us houses, but they never did,” says Mapara.
Director of Litigation at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute Nomzamo Zondo says this affirms the people's right to choose where they want to live.
Zondo says, “This ruling is a vindication of Slovo Park residents who fought for 20 years, to get to this point. It's also a situation where we now know that the upgrading of informal settlements can come alive for communities and informal settlers all across South Africa.”
“We have not read the judgment unfortunately but we are hoping that is what it is saying. It's saying that no more removals. No more relocation, we should be looking at upgrading as the first option.
It's a ground-breaking judgment for everyone who's been fighting for upgrading even before the policy was launched in 2004,” says Zondo.
Zondo adds that she thinks that many residents across the country will be celebrating this ruling.
City of Joburg spokesperson Nthathisi Modingoane says they're studying the judgment.
“The City of Joburg notes the ruling by the court today. And the city's entire legal team is currently studying the entire legal judgment. And will advise the city on the way forward and course of action,” says Modingoane.
While the ruling gives hope to the shack dwellers who wish to remain in their chosen location, they will have to wait to find out if the city will challenge or comply with the court order.