Our Accountability stack — Evictions Update.

Reflecting on our project after the launched our new website www.evictions.org.za.

Calyn Pillay
4 min readSep 12, 2019

What are we delivering?

Our first offering to this ecosystem was an offline eviction guide. We created it as a how-to-manual. It shared information and actionable steps tenants could take. There are currently 370 guides in circulation this year that have been distributed via law centres.

The second product we created was an Affidavit Assistant. We saw this as a way of relieving the cost tenants paid for lawyer’s consultations as tenants through the Affidavit Assistant can collect key information for their lawyers prior to the consultation. This is currently in testing in Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

Simultaneously, while developing the Affidavit Assistant and distributing the eviction guide, we sought to take the offline guide online. This allowed us to scale the impact the guide and to create an interactive website for tenants.

All the products we have created are in English.

What are we not delivering?

We are not offering “tenants-facing” support. For example, we will not be helping a specific tenant go through the process. We are working to map the process, understand the system and create a manual for evictions that tenants and those who help tenants can use.

We are not doing direct advocacy. If the data we collect via the tools can be used for the advocacy of adequate housing and land use, we will share that data with organisations who do that work.

Taking this approach allows us to impact the systems and processes in place versus impacting singular tenants; it allows us to gain transferable knowledge and skills about how citizens work with governments and lastly, it plays to the strengths of our team.

Where is the project now?

This project is ongoing. We have created two offerings to the eviction ecosystem- the offline and online guides and the affidavit assistant- we are in the feedback and monitoring stage.

What is our benchmark for success?

Success has three dimensions for us. The first, mapping the processes and blockages that occur when citizens go through an eviction process. We want to understand the process and collect learning and tacit knowledge about how it works. To create the “missing manual for government” in this instance.

Second, we want to deploy useful tools to assist tenants to go through the eviction process.

Third, we want to be able to capture measurements through the tools about the eviction process. For example, how long do certain stages take? What are the most common challenges?

Who is the user and how are we measuring use?

The core group of beneficiaries are tenants who are at risk of eviction. If you go to evictions.org.za you will see that the eviction guide has a section on meaningful engagement. This is indicative of our target group as we are trying to help tenants resolve issues with their landlord prior to a court process.

  • Do they follow through and register on the eviction database?
  • Monitoring actions they take

The second group of beneficiaries are intermediary supporters of tenants. Key examples, are Law centres and housing activist groups.

  • Are they willing to distribute the guides?
  • Do they distribute them and under what conditions?
  • Do they request more guides for distribution?

Has this been done before?

We know that the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) is a non-profit human rights organisation that has a tenant and landlord guide. Their guide explains a tenants rights and the law regarding evictions and gives practical advice on how to resist them. It is one of the resources in the Dear Mandela Toolkit, aimed at “informing individuals, communities and Community Based Organisations of their rights.”

OpenUp’s approach is to inform, empower and activate citizens. Informing citizens is about giving them access to data, knowledge and information, which is available, accessible and understandable. In this project, we have provided this through the online and offline guide.

Empowering citizens means they have technological or analogous tools that allow them to take action to improve their life or that of their community. As our guide is a how-to manual for the process, it along with the affidavit assistance empowers citizens to take action by improving their capacity and lowering the threshold to do so.

Activating citizens means they take action that improves their life or that of their community and promote further action. Do they go to court? Do they ask for a postponement? Do they seek pro-bono services?

What are the challenges to the project?

There are legal and procedural processes and different personalities that this process has to contend with. For example, we have two satellite locations in Cape Town — Cape Town and Wynberg Magistrate Courts. The Cape Town court has responded positively to our work and the presence of our court monitors (who gather observational data about the process and distribute guides), and we have noticed some important shifts that bring the practice of the court closer to what is envisaged in the Constitution. In Wynberg, we have been asked to leave the court. You can read more about our experience in Wynberg here.

Thanks to The Digital project manager from providing some of the discussion questions.



Calyn Pillay

is a MSc Med (Bioethics & HealthLaw) candidate at Wits. Interested in Effective altruism, Human Rights and Parity.