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How to stay home without a home

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS is very pleased to be partnering with the Nelson Mandela Foundation on a project addressing home, land and tenure issues during lockdown

Regulations to address the spread of the novel coronavirus in South Africa have been in place for around two months now. In that time, we have moved from alert level five, where all but essential movement and gathering was banned, through to the much less restrictive level three. Yet, the call to ‘stay at home’ and maintain physical distancing has presented huge challenges to many people in our country.

While we have worked with a group of 27 other civil society organisations to successfully call for a moratorium on evictions during level five, we have struggled to ensure this absolute moratorium stays in place as long as the lockdown does. It is perhaps more clear than ever that issues around evictions and the destruction of homes as well as the enduring problems of home- and landlessness and insecure tenure need to be addressed.

Our team working on concerns related to home, land and rural democracy has therefore connected with the Nelson Foundation to undertake a project which draws out the expertise of civil society and engages proactively and meaningfully with the state. This is in line with our strategic approach to work in critical partnership with government in order to bring about change and social justice. Our submission on the evictions regulation under lockdown has resulted in a positive response from the Speaker of the National Assembly which encourages further engagements with the Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

On 21 May 2020, we convened our first interactive online forum with over thirty representatives from social movements, public interest organisations, law firms and academia working in this area. Participants were split into five groups for focused discussions on the topics of evictions, the demolition of housing structures, rehoming and temporary emergency accommodation, farm dwellers’ access to land and rural communities’ access to land.

The team from CALS consists of Ariella Scher, Vuyolethu Mntonintshi, Basetsana Koitsioe and Thuli Zulu. “The engagement went really well,” says the team. “The discussions were energising and we got the sense that there is so much work to be done in this space, both within the context of lockdown and more generally moving forward.”

The minutes from the forum have assisted the team to develop a discussion document covering each of the five identified areas of concern to use in further engagements with the state. “We believe that our country needs a forward-looking approach which takes into account the dangers posed by COVID-19 as well as the socio-economic realities of our society. This will become ever more important as we move from a legal framework where people are compelled to ‘stay at home’ to one where this is merely encouraged,” says the team.

We look forward to a sustained and productive engagements on how these issues should be addressed in regulations going forward.

Read the full concept note for this project here

Read the draft discussion document here.

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