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Social justice organisations welcome new lockdown regulations on evictions

- Lee-Anne Bruce

New regulations governing lockdown alert level two offer greater protections against evictions and demolitions

Organisations working on the issues of land and housing welcome new regulations which ostensibly offer more extensive protections against evictions and demolitions under the national state of disaster. The regulations acknowledge the importance of having a home during the current pandemic and reflect a number of submissions made to national government by social justice organisations. We hope that this will go some way to preventing further evictions in municipalities around the country.

Over the last few months, many have suggested that the current pandemic and ensuing national lockdown have ‘revealed’ the stark inequalities present in South African society. Often, we ask how people may practice the safety protocols to stay at home and maintain social distancing when they do not have adequate housing, or wash their hands frequently when they are not provided with proper access to water and sanitation. While our housing crisis has a long legacy, the importance of having a home for people to stay safe and healthy has perhaps never been so clear. Yet, in spite of this, reports of people being unlawfully evicted and having their homes destroyed continue to pour in.

Social justice organisations have advocated for regulations under each level of lockdown which take this into account. We have written extensive submissions on the importance of a moratorium on all evictions, which we were pleased to see included under the revised level five regulations. Since then, we have urged national government to extend the moratorium and participated in a range of productive engagements on issues around land tenure, evictions, and the demolition of homes. We have also called on the government to effect comprehensive economic support for those vulnerable to tenure insecurity, ensuring that tenants and mortgage payers can comply with ‘stay at home’ directives and not face displacement and financial ruin.

We have been particularly heartened to see how these engagements are now reflected in the updated regulations governing the national state of disaster. The new regulations, effective from 18 August 2020, offer more extensive protections to renters and dwellers and, importantly, centre the ‘home’. We believe that this goes some way to acknowledging the dignity and agency of all persons, while offering them protections when they are left vulnerable. We further welcome the extension of the responsibility to report on the availability of alternative accommodation to the Executive branch of government, which we believe will assist where municipalities fail to perform to their duties.

We are aware, however, that there are still evictions, removals and demolitions taking place in municipalities around the country, despite the progress made at the national level.

  • We remain concerned about the capacity of the Rental Housing Tribunal to address the influx of complaints arising from the national lockdown and economic downturn, and await more specific directives in this regard.
  • We maintain that the SAPS must be better capacitated to prevent illegal evictions.
  • We resist the ever-increasing role of private security companies and municipal agencies in effecting demolitions of homes across the country.
  • We note the continued absence of any protections for rural communities, including farm dwelling and mining-affected communities.
  • We record the impatience in communities arising from an ineffective housing allocation system that is inconsistent with the government’s stated objective to deliver safe and dignified housing.

We remain hopeful that the new regulations will go some way to addressing the problems we record, but recognise that they will not end the housing crisis. We remain vigilant and hope to see directions and implementation protocols from government to ensure that those in need can activate the protections in the regulations.

Find a copy of the new regulations here.

Read more about our calls and submissions here and here.

Issued by: 

  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies 
  • Nelson Mandela Foundation 
  • Ndifuna Ukwazi 
  • Socio-Economic Rights Institute
  • Association for Rural Advancement
  • Legal Resources Centre 

For more information, please contact:

From the Centre for Applied Legal Studies

From Ndifuna Ukwazi

From the Socio-Economic Rights Institute

From the Association for Rural Advancement

From the Legal Resources Centre