Social Justice Coalition (South Africa)

Since its formation in 2008, the Social Justice Coalition ("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, people do not feel them in their every day lives. Founded in 2008, the SJC is a membership-based social movement made up of 12 branches, located mainly in informal settlements across Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Our campaigns are based on ongoing research, education, and advocacy and divided across two programmes. The Local Government Programme leads the work on sanitation, budgets, and urban land. The Safety and Justice Programme is focused on policing and the criminal justice system.

Social Justice Coalition
Social Justice Coalition (South Africa) logo.png
TypeCommunity organisation
HeadquartersKhayelitsha, South Africa
Official language
English, Xhosa


The SJC believes in accountable and effective government and the democratic participation of communities in developing policy and the implementation of services. As an organization the SJC is not aligned to any political party. The SJC's campaigns are based on ongoing research, education, and advocacy. Their advocacy works 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 and Justice.


Safety and JusticeEdit

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 safetyEdit

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.

Campaign for a commission of inquiry into policing in KhayelitshaEdit

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. 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. The SJC and partner organizations are now working on ensuring the implementation of its 20 recommendations, which the Commission 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.

Working towards democratic participation in improving policingEdit

Following the Commission, SAPS at the local level has taken the initiative in setting up a Joint Forum, which 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's recommendations. 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.

Safety in Cape TownEdit

The ten safest suburbs in the City of Cape Town, all established largely white middle and upper class suburbs, with an average murder rate of 6 per 100,000 people have 1 police officer for every 232 residents. The ten most dangerous suburbs, all black and coloured working class areas, with an average murder rate of 84 per 100,000 people have only 1 police officer for every 1153 people.

Local governmentEdit

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]


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. With our partner, Ndifuna Ukwazi, we have also developed a technology reporting system for toilets that is currently being piloted in Khayelitsha.

Access to sanitationEdit

In 2013, the City of Cape Town’s information showed that almost 80,000 homes have, “inadequate access to sanitation.” The 2011 Census indicated that 100,000 people in the City of Cape Town have no access whatsoever to any sanitation facilities, including communal toilets and that almost 50,000 homes still use the bucket system.

Budget justiceEdit

With the SJC's 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. 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.

In the city’s 2015/2016 draft budget 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.

Sanitation expenditureEdit

In the city’s 2015/2016 draft budget R22 million is proposed for sanitation infrastructure for all 204 informal settlements in the city. This means that all the households in informal settlements 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 justiceEdit

Cape Town’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. 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 SJC is 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 LecturesEdit

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)," 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 were 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 alsoEdit

Sister organisationsEdit


  1. ^ SJC Pamphlet
  2. ^ Adam (11 October 2010). "SJC: Third Irene Grootboom Memorial Lecture Series". Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  3. ^ "The SJC presents...The History of Inequality in Cape Town: 1652-2011". Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-06-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


External linksEdit