Webber Wentzel's Pro bono leverages their deep legal expertise in a matter relating to the Protea South informal settlement

22nd November 2022

Webber Wentzel's Pro bono leverages their deep legal expertise in a matter relating to the Protea South informal settlement

Webber Wentzel's purpose is to have a transformative and sustainable impact through their work and actions. The best way for them to do this is by leveraging their deep legal expertise, especially on matters which serve to uphold the values set out in our Constitution. Recently, Webber Wentzel's Pro Bono team acted on behalf of Maureen Mnisi and others regarding the reinstatement of the upgrading of an informal settlement in Protea South.

On 11 November 2022, Judge Francis handed down an order in the matter of Maureen Mnisi and others v the City of Johannesburg (the respondent) in the High Court, Johannesburg. The order states that the respondent should commence with the design investigation, footprint and preparation phases of the Protea South informal settlement layout plan within one month of the order being granted and that the respondent finalises these three phases by 31 December 2023. If the respondent is not able to finalise the design investigation phase by 31 December 2023, they are permitted to apply for an extension to finalise the project. Further to this, the respondent is obligated to file monthly progress and compliance reports.

This is the latest in a series of no less than seven court orders obtained by Webber Wentzel's Pro Bono team to enforce and guide the mandatory processes in terms of the National Housing Code for the development of in situ housing solutions for the Protea South informal settlement.

In terms of the order from Judge Wright dated 31 March 2014 and the SA National Standard 1936 of 2012 for housing development, the respondent was ordered to install interim services in Protea South and to re-test the geotechnical suitability of the area, having regard to the dolomitic formations underlying the settlement. The testing showed that a 12 000 units low-income housing development was feasible in Protea South in the form of three-story walk-ups. 

Initially, Judge Wright's order was ignored by the City of Johannesburg, and Webber Wentzel sought an order of contempt of court against the City. By agreement, the Judge President then appointed Judge Francis to case manage the implementation of the orders including the Wright order. The case management was effective in obtaining compliance with the orders.

After May 2019 and during the COVID crisis, the City fell silent and inactive. In June 2021 Webber Wentzel resumed engagement with the City. It became clear that the City was reneging on its obligations concerning the in situ upgrading of Protea South and talked of plans for relocating the occupiers to Roodepoort farm south of Lenasia.

It was in this context that Webber Wentzel sought and obtained the order on 11 November 2022 to put the upgrading of Protea South back on track. The firm relied on the authority of the judgment in BEE v Road Accident Fund 2018 (4) SA 266 SCA. "Our efforts were aimed at creating integrated, habitable and compact cities where people have easy access to amenities and work" says Moray Hathorn, Consultant at Webber Wentzel.