Social Justice Coalition (South Africa)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the South African NGO. For other uses, see Social Justice Coalition (disambiguation).
Social Justice Coalition
Formation 2008
Type Community organisation
Headquarters Khayelitsha, South Africa
Official language
English, Xhosa

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is a South African, membership-based, community social movement that focuses on campaigning for safety and security for those living in townships in the Cape Town area. The SJC has undertaken a wide range of campaigns to apply pressure on the South African government to provide good governance and accountability in all its departments in order to improve the lives of those living in informal settlements. The primary areas of focus for SJC are the pursuit of safe living conditions and effective local government for the residents of the informal settlements with a particular focus on Khayelitsha. The SJC is currently based in Khayelitsha, with branches throughout the Cape Town area.

General Purpose[edit]

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is a mass-based social movement campaigning for safe, healthy and dignified communities in some of South Africa’s largest, most under-developed and crime affected townships. There are branches throughout Khayelitsha and our members mainly live in informal settlements. The SJC was founded in Cape Town in 2008 as a response to the xenophobic violence of the time. The majority of our work has focused on improving access to sanitation, safety and justice in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements through campaigns for better sanitation and policing. For the past seven years the SJC has worked to advance the constitutional rights to life, dignity, equality, freedom and safety for all people, but especially those living in informal settlements across South Africa. While these rights are protected and promoted by our Constitution, they are violated daily and people do not feel them in their everyday lives. As an organisation, the SJC is not aligned to any political party.

Operational Structure[edit]

The campaigns of the SJC are based on ongoing research, education, and advocacy. Our advocacy work comes in many forms including formal submissions on policy and budgets, engagement with government, memorandums, protest marches, and other forms of public and legal action. The SJC’s work is divided into two main programmes – Local Government and Safety & Justice.


SJC Grootboom Memorial Lecture Series on Safety, Security and Good Governance, September 2008

Safety and Justice[edit]

This Program is designed to make Khayelitsha and all of South Africa a safer place where there is improved access to justice and a better working relationship between the police and communities.

Khayelitsha and Safety[edit]

Khayelitsha is one of the most unsafe areas in South Africa and is similar to the conditions in townships across the country. It has an over-worked and under-resourced criminal justice system. For years the SJC and partner organizations monitored crime and safety in Khayelitsha and identified many problems such as poor police investigations, lack of support for victims of crime, long response times when police are called, dockets disappearing from court and a lack of support for police. The South African Police Service (SAPS), often the only recourse that poor and vulnerable people have, is unable to ensure residents safety. Apartheid era resource allocations persist resulting in the Khayelitsha cluster being allocated less police officers per capita than those serving formerly white and coloured areas in the city and by and large the least experienced detectives.

The campaign for a Commission of Inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha[edit]

More than 10 years of struggle by an alliance of communities, organizations, and social movements led to the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha – this became known as the O’Regan-Pikoli Commission of Inquiry. For years, we tried to get government and the police to listen to these concerns and improve conditions. Led by the SJC, social movements based in Khayelitsha such as Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Equal Education (EE) and Free Gender, supported by Ndifuna Ukwazi and Triangle Project pressured the Western Cape government into establishing the Commission. Campaigns relating to individual cases of police inefficiency experienced by TAC, SJC,EE and Free Gender members and their families were drawn together into a united campaign. The Commission is very important for changing the Apartheid state, especially the police. It is providing a way to make sure there is long term change in the criminal justice system, particularly in poor and working class areas. The National Minister of Police tried to stop the commission in 2012 and 2013, but he lost in both the Western Cape High Court and then in the South African Constitutional Court.

The Commission held its public hearings in early 2014 and released its final report on 25 August 2014. We are now working on ensuring the implementation of its recommendations. The Commission highlighted 20 recommendations it identified as being key to making Khayelitsha a safer place. The Commission radically altered the nature of participatory government in the sphere of safety, policing, and justice. Its recommendations require participation in areas such as school safety, provision of adequate street lighting and gang prevention.

Working towards democratic participation in improving policing[edit]

Following the Commission, SAPS at the local level has taken the initiative in setting up a Joint Forum. The Joint Forum brings together provincial and city government departments with SAPS as well a range of community bodies. As one of the first forums of its kind, it is charting a new way for participation in fixing the police. The Joint Forum is made up of eight sub-forums and these aim to address key issues identified by the Commission - gender-based violence; youth and gangs; road safety; vigilantism; drug abuse; alcohol regulation; business as well as a research group.

For SJC, the new phase in 2015 moves from public campaigns, marches, and litigation to one of greater partnership and cooperation. This is an extremely positive outcome of the Commission, but will depend on whether the National Minister of police acts on the Commission recommendations. The Commission is one of SJC’s most important victories and its potential is far greater than Khayelitsha. Remedying many decades of police inefficiency, mis- management, brutality and incompetence will take many years to achieve. Now, the legal foundation has been created for working with government to address the police service and work towards ensuring that people enjoy the rights to life, security, and dignity. The police in South Africa, like many other parts of the state, are a legacy of Apartheid. Now, the groundwork has been laid to change it.

In its final report the Commission explained how grossly unfair the system of policing was and described it as: ‘a system of human resource allocation that appears to be systematically biased against poor black communities could have survived twenty-years into our post-apartheid democracy. In the view of the Commission, the survival of this system is evidence of a failure of governance and oversight in every sphere of government.

Local Government[edit]

The Local government programme of the SJC aims at improving the performance and accountability of the city government of Cape Town and the provincial government of Western Cape. To this end, the SJC scrutinizes and highlights the legal obligations of the respective governments and addresses the problems that arise when the governments fail to meet those obligations. These problems are brought to the attention of the city and provincial government and the SJC works to pressure the governments into correcting the problems. The SJC also undertakes a series of education campaigns designed to empower those living in informal settlements to take steps to address the problems themselves. [1]


SJC toilet queue protest demanding safe and dignified sanitation, March 2010

Toilets in informal settlements are not private spaces where a grandmother, a child, or any other person can undertake one of the most basic human functions. A minority of residents have access to a full flush toilet that is shared amongst many people, and the vast majority have for years used temporary facilities such as chemical toilets, container toilets, porta potties and buckets. Many, who have no access at all, still use the nearest field or bushes. In fact, residents of informal settlements believe that it is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Women and children in our communities are especially vulnerable. Many have been mugged or assaulted trying to use a toilet and there is constant fear of being raped.

Since 2009 the SJC has led a campaign for clean and safe sanitation. We have had key victories such as the implementation of a janitorial service for flush toilets for informal settlements and several successful social audits into sanitation services,the first of their kind in South Africa. Our community-led social audits have exposed serious problems in the way that sanitation provision is dealt with by government. In 2013 we conducted social audits on Mshengu chemical toilets and refuse collection in informal settlements, and in 2014 a social audit on the janitorial service for flush toilets. With our partner, Ndifuna Ukwazi, we have also developed a technology reporting system for toilets that is currently being piloted in Khayelitsha.

The City of Cape Town however has failed to keep its promises and uphold its responsibilities on developing proper plans for sanitation. The SJC is demanding that the City of Cape Town develop a long-term plan for clean and safe sanitation in all of Cape Town’s informal settlements.

Budget Justice[edit]

With our partners Ndifuna Ukwazi and the International Budget Partnership we have developed a campaign for a fair budget for toilets in Cape Town and for proper participation in the budget. Participation is at the heart of democracy. The way that resources are allocated by local government affects everybody’s lives in the most direct ways possible. Participation in the budget process is extremely bad, last year only 37 people made submissions on the draft budget and it is unclear whether any were residents of Cape Town’s poor communities or townships. In 2015 the SJC helped to collect and submit more than 500 submissions from residents of Khayelitsha about how they felt the City needed to spend its budget to improve sanitation. Never before have so many submissions been made.

The City is meant to consider these submissions when developing its final budget to ensure that the voices of our members and the wider community are heard when government decides how to spend our money. With our partners we have been educating ourselves about how the City’s budget works, how government spends public money and exactly how much money is set aside for toilets. Through our submissions and public advocacy, we are now demanding that the Mayor increase the budget for sanitation in informal settlements so that it is fair and equal.

In the City’s 2015/2016 draft budget only R22 million is proposed for sanitation infrastructure for all 204 informal settlements in the city. This means that all the households in informal settlement are getting less than 2% of the capital budget for sanitation. For perspective, R106 million is being set aside for one parking garage for the City’s Finance Directorate.

Urban Land Justice[edit]

South African cities have been shaped through centuries of dispossession and the ongoing struggle for urban land. Nowhere is this clearer than in Cape Town. The city’s segregation on race and class lines is one of the key legacies of Apartheid, but continues to be maintained and worsened by government today.  Poor and working class communities are forced to live far away from central areas where there are few socio-economic opportunities. There are currently no low cost housing developments within, or anywhere near, the centre of Cape Town. We have made objections to the sale of land by the City and Provincial government as there are vast areas of government-owned land that remain unused or are sold to private developers instead of for low cost housing. The response so far has been a refusal by government to consider using central land for low cost housing.  The SJC is currently working with our partners to get a better understanding of how much land is available, where it is, and what the law says on urban land. We are now building a campaign for urban land justice so that poor and working class communities can access land, resources, and opportunities closer to the City and to reverse Apartheid spatial planning.

Grootboom Lectures[edit]

Every year the SJC hosts a lecture series in honor of housing activist Irene Grootboom in order to promote community participation on issues faced by poor and working class communities.


The theme of the 2010 lecture series was "Masithete" (Xhosa for "lets talk)" and the primary focus of these lectures was the improvement of communication between members of poor communities and their local government. The lectures of 2010 were in part a response to the poor sanitation conditions in a section of Khayelitsha known as Makhaza where miscommunication between community members and government officials resulted in certain residents having to use toilets without walls or roofs.[2]


The 2011 lecture series was titled "The History of Inequality in Cape Town: 1652-2011". The lectures put an emphasis on the historical developments starting in the pre-colonial era that led to the high levels of income disparity and racial segregation in Cape Town. The aim of those lectures was to highlight the causes of inequality and disparity in Cape Town and then discuss a vision for the future of Cape Town including setting goals for Cape Town to achieve by the year 2031.[3]


The 2012 lecture series examined the potential of the concept of design, to bring relief to those living in informal settlements. The lectures explored different concepts of urban planning with the aim of providing solutions to the safety and sanitation problems in the informal settlements.[4]


The 2013 lecture series was entitled "Beyond High Walls and Broken Windows" and was focused on the lack of security faced by those living in informal settlements. There were a variety of topics addressed by the lectures including police brutality, the long term effects of crime on individuals, and the underlying causes of crime in post-apartheid South Africa.


The 2014 lecture series looked into the lingering effects of apartheid era urban planning. The lectures to designed to examine the reasons why racial separation continues in the post-apartheid era and the consequences of that separation in terms of the health and physical security of the residents of the black informal settlements.

See also[edit]

Sister organisations[edit]


External links[edit]