n South African Journal on Human Rights - Litigating housing rights in Johannesburg's Inner City : 2004 - 2008

Volume 27, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



This article argues for a theoretically informed, socially contextualised way of appraising the impact of strategic litigation on the needs and interests of the poor and vulnerable. After sketching the theoretical terrain against which human rights litigation falls to be assessed, the article examines the relative success of recent strategic litigation aimed at stemming the flow of forced evictions in Johannesburg's inner city. Success or failure of rights and the strategies that give effect to them, the author argues, is always contingent on a broad range of factors, many of which are beyond the control of public interest law practitioners. The best that can be done is to practise law with an acute awareness of the nature and likely impact of those factors. This will guard against both an over-reductive approach, which posits that litigation can never 'ultimately' make a difference, and the over confidence of the intellectually able, but socially dislocated, elite practitioner who equates social change with 'good jurisprudence'.

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