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Housing as a Basic Human Right: A Reflection on South Africa

Mziwandile Sobantu, Nqobile Zulu, Ntandoyenkosi Maphosa


This paper reflects on human rights in the post-apartheid South Africa housing context from a social development lens. The Constitution guarantees access to adequate housing as a basic human right, a prerequisite for the optimum development of individuals, families and communities. Without the other related socio-economic rights, the provision of access to housing is limited in its service delivery. We argue that housing rights are inseparable from the broader human rights discourse and social development endeavours underway in the country. While government has made much progress through the Reconstruction and Development Programme, the reality of informal settlements and backyard shacks continues to undermine the human rights prospects of the urban poor. Forced evictions undermine some poor citizens’ human rights leading courts to play an active role in enforcing housing and human rights through establishing a jurisprudence that invariably advances a social development agenda. The authors argue that the post-1994 government needs to galvanise the citizenship of the urban poor through development-oriented housing delivery.


housing; human rights; housing delivery; social development; South Africa

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