Covid-19: De-densification

Though de-densification seems inarguably reasonable under the call of social-distancing, the list of ripple effects of a plan like minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s is long and complex. There also exists a lack of transparency which makes it impossible to predict fully what these effects might be. For example, who are the assisting NGOs she mentions? Taking into account the historically justified mistrust of government-sponsored temporary removal and the negligence with which these plans are often drafted, how do people respond to this state-sanctioned form of forced removal? What are the primary concerns and what would it mean to have basic needs met through dignified processes? What are the long-term implications?

Axolile Notywala is an activist and General Secretary of the Social Justice Coalition, a grassroots social-movement campaigning for safe, healthy, and dignified communities in some of South Africa’s most underdeveloped townships. He is a 2015 alumnus of the Building Bridges Leading in Public Life Programme of the University of Cape Town, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and served from 2012–2017 as a board member of the My Vote Counts campaign, a non-profit company campaigning to improve the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections and politics in South Africa. Notywala also serves as a Committee member of the South African Human Rights Commission’s Section 11 Committee on the right to water and sanitation.

Marie Huchzermeyer is a Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits University where she convenes the Master of Urban Studies degree. She is also affiliated to the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) in the same School. Her research over the past two decades has engaged critically with housing and informal settlement policy. She is the author of Cities With ‘Slums’: From Informal Settlement Eradication to a Right to the City in Africa (UCT Press 2011) and Tenement Cities: From 19th Century Berlin to 21st Century Nairobi (AWP 2011). From these perspectives, a theme of her more recent research is a situated reading of Henri Lefebvre’s work on the right to the city. Her work continues to promote the participatory upgrading of informal settlements, she tries to accompany leadership in a few settlements that have resisted relocation and are struggling for in situ upgrading, and she is a voice in discussions on policy and implementation in this field.

Edward Molopi works as a Research and Advocacy Officer at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), a litigating research NGO based in Johannesburg. He holds a BA Honours (in Politics) and a Masters degree in Urban Studies both from the University of the Witwatersrand. His Master’s research was based on eviction struggles in the context of the housing demolitions that took place in Lenasia South in 2012.

Prior to joining SERI, Molopi worked as a researcher with the Babuthi Research Institute where he conducted research on various housing-related issues. He has also worked on a number of community participation and urban change projects.

Molopi’s research interests lie broadly within the fields of housing and urban politics. He works closely with communities, academics and policy-makers. He has appeared and been interviewed on a number of media platforms including TV, radio and print media.