By Tshenolo Masha
Our collaboration with Dr Maxim Bolt (University of Birmingham and the UK Social Research Council) on the Family House concept continues.
Following the launch of the Position Paper in July 2018, a public consultation was held to get feedback on the research from members of the public. The input identified a need for formal legal recognition of the concept. On 9 February 2019 a summarised version of the position paper was presented to 180 plus community members from Jabulani, Zola, Zondi and surrounding areas in Soweto. It was noted that in many instances when legal reform takes place there is no adequate substantive engagement with the affected communities. There have been many reforms around land ownership and inheritance in urban spaces, but it has previously not been adequately communicated or explained how these changes would affect the manner in which property is owned, administered and even accessed.
As the position paper’s research and case work focused on Soweto, this community was an obvious choice for public engagement. Through the Zola Advice Centre, young and old expressed their thoughts, feelings and experiences in relation to this concept. After going through the sections, community members gave feedback on the paper based on their lived experiences. A few assumptions were corrected but mostly the community members concurred that the family house is a concept that is alive within their community but is also difficult to define. The community also called for formal recognition of the concept and families that practise this concept should be able, through legal mechanisms, to register properties as family homes.
The input from this consultation and the consultation in July 2018 with academics, legal professionals and social justice organisations saw the development of a policy toolkit. This document identifies key legislation and state functionaries that should be explored in advocating for policy and legislative reforms in relation to this concept. The policy toolkit was launched officially on 26 March 2019 at Hogan Lovells. Speakers from The Deeds Office Johannesburg, Master’s Office Johannesburg, the Gauteng Provincial Legislature Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements, the South African Law Reform Commission and a conveyancing practitioner gave their inputs and feedback on the authors’ recommendations on action to be taken to ensure policy and legislative change. This will lead to more substantive engagements with state entities such as the Law Reform Commission and provincial departments for policy and legislative reforms.