Residents of the informal Joe Slovo settlement and their supporters protest outside of the South African Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa. Those who gathered called on the court’s nine judges to overturn a controversial eviction order that would see all residents of the settlement forcibly removed from a township where many have lived for more than 15 years. (Toussaint Losier photo)
|Residents of Joe Slovo and Delft Symphony Way, two informal settlements located in Cape Town, South Africa, pause and call for support during their train ride back from Johannesburg, where they protested the eviction order. (Toussaint Losier photo)
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Dancing the toyi-toyi, stomping their feet and singing protest songs, more than 100 residents of the informal Joe Slovo settlement in Cape Town and their supporters rallied outside of South Africa’s Constitutional Court last month in support of the community’s right to adequate housing.
Nearly all had traveled 28 hours by train to attend the hearing concerning the future of their community.
Inside the courtroom, their lawyers called upon the court’s nine judges to overturn a controversial eviction order that would have seen all residents of the settlement forcibly removed from the township of Langa, where many have been living for more than 15 years.
Issued by Cape Judge President John Hlophe five months ago, the court order declared all 6,000 families in Joe Slovo to be unlawful occupants of a valuable strip of city land and ordered the community’s relocation to make way for the completion of Phases 2 and 3 of the N2 Gateway, a pilot housing project.
At the heart of the Joe Slovo residents’ case was the widespread belief that if residents moved voluntarily, they had no guarantee that authorities would allow them to return to the still-limited number of houses now planned for construction.
Their skepticism stems from a similar situation in January 2005, after a shack fire burned down portions of Joe Slovo. Hundreds voluntarily relocated to Delft for what authorities promised was only a temporary period until the project’s first phase was completed.
But of 705 former residents, only one was given the opportunity to return to the new housing.
Residents also argued that housing developer Thubelisha Homes and government officials had failed to adequately include their input in the planning of the project or ensure that enough low-income housing would be built to accommodate all residents. After repeated requests failed to secure a meeting with top government officials, Joe Slovo residents made nationwide news by carrying out a daylong blockade of the vital N2 highway in September 2007.(p2)
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