by Duncan Ranslem, June 2011
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Geography)
The right to housing needs to be dissociated from the right to property and returned to the right to inhabit.
-Don Mitchell, The Right to the City
Adopted in 1996 after the fall of the apartheid state, the South African constitution enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa. Enumerated among these rights is a right to property and a right to housing.2 The former represents the claims to ownership and private property that are familiar in U.S. law and Western tradition: the rights to possess property, and through this possession, to use it as one sees fit, to accrue any benefits that are derived from it, and to be protected from its undue expropriation. The right to housing, on the other hand, recognizes the fundamental need for access to shelter and basic social connections. Under its provisions, every home is protected from demolition, and its inhabitants protected from eviction, except after a court has considered all the relevant circumstances. Moreover, South Africa’s municipal governments are responsible, within their available resources, to realize the right to adequate housing for all. Juxtaposed against one another, these rights represent claims that are often contradictory. The underlying contradiction, in many cases, is that a person’s home is not necessarily that person’s property. Such homes may exist, either as, or located on, property owned by the state or by a private entity. In such cases, where the lawful property owner is met with the unlawful appropriation of his property as someone else’s home, the right to that property and the right to housing come into conflict. Read the rest of this entry »