The Wynberg Concerned Residents' Disempowering Court Victory

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4 Citations (Scopus)


In the South African context, the use of the judiciary as a means through which the poor can access housing and defend themselves from evictions has been addressed by several researchers (see, for example, Huchzermeyer, Urban Forum 14(1):80-106, 2003; Greenstein 2004). While some scholars seem to uncritically assume that the court offers the possibilities for redistribution and for the protection of the rights of marginalised South Africans (Gumede 2005), others, such as Huchzermeyer, have highlighted "the limitations of the judiciary as a route to democratic access to the city" (2003: 80). However, authors have not provided an in-depth analysis of the relationship between the demands made by a community-based organisation and their involvement in a court case. Drawing primarily from in-depth interviews with a community-based organisation in Alexandra called the Wynberg Concerned Residents (WCR) and local government officials involved with the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP), this article illustrates the process through which the WCR becomes disempowered after its victory in court. Furthermore, it suggests that court cases do not always challenge the amount of resources provided by the state for the local level, in this case the ARP. As a result, victories in court do not necessarily have a positive effect on the living conditions of the poor as a whole. Instead of transforming development through the court system, the court may merely offer a potential means by which to re-manage specific local decisions so that the demands of particular residents can be addressed. The article concludes by offering a possible way forward given the disjuncture between community-based activists and movement theorists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-169
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Community movements
  • Court case
  • Eviction
  • Resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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