South Africa: ICJ calls on High Court to consider human rights of informal waste reclaimers in eviction case

Today, the ICJ will argue in a case before the Johannesburg High Court that the rights to housing and work for persons who work to informally reclaim waste must be protected in line with international law and standards.

Today the International Commission of Jurists will be appearing as an amicus curiae in the matter of Ryckloff-Beleggings (Pty) Ltd v Ntombekhaya Bonkolo and Others. In this matter, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa represents over 100 informal waste reclaimers who are opposing an application for eviction from their homes by, Ryckloff-Beleggings (Pty) Ltd, the owner of the property.

The ICJ, represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, is asking the Court to fully consider the impact of any eviction order it grants on the rights to housing and work of the reclaimers and the right to health of both the reclaimers and the broader community, particularly in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


Timothy Fish Hodgson, Legal Adviser on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights at the ICJ said:

“It is inhumane to render people homeless as a result of eviction from their homes, but when doing so also strips them of their ability to make a living, the impact on their dignity is even greater. South Africa has a duty to ensure the protection of the reclaimers’ rights to housing and work.”


Many of the informal reclaimers in this matter have lived on the property for long periods of time and they argue that the eviction will result in them being rendered homeless. Many make a living by collecting, sorting, recycling, and selling valuable materials disposed of as waste at and near their homes.

The land upon which they live is not just their home, but also allows them to make a living. In the South African context job opportunities are scarce with an official unemployment rate as high as 32.5 percent.

The ICJ brief calls on the Court to take account of international human rights law relating to the right to work, and South Africa’s international legal obligations and its own domestic law in terms of the right to housing.

In the event of their eviction being permitted by the Court, the reclaimers seek the provision of alternative accommodation which will not deprive them of their ability to make a living, a request which the ICJ contends is consistent with the requirements of international human rights law.


Thandeka Chauke, ICJ’s legal representative in this matter and an Attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights said:

“Especially in light of the economic devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that Courts act as guardians of the human rights of the marginalized in our society. Informal reclaimers’ role in our society should be recognized and they should not be stripped of their homes and livelihoods without sufficient effort being made by government to come to their aid.”


For the ICJ’s heads of arguments, click on ICJ_Amicus_Curiae_Heads_of_Argument_Ryckloff.

For more information about the case, click here.



Timothy Fish Hodgson, Legal Adviser on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, e:

Tanveer Rashid Jeewa, Communications and Legal Officer, e:

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