The role of administrative law in enforcing socio-economic rights: Revisiting Joseph

Authors Melanie Murcott

ISSN: 1996-2126
Affiliations: Lecturer, Department of Public Law, University of Pretoria
Source: South African Journal on Human Rights, Volume 29 Issue 3, 2013, p. 481 – 495


Joseph v City of Johannesburg has been both applauded by administrative lawyers, as a case in which formalism was rejected and a substantive model of administrative law adjudication was embraced, and condemned by human rights lawyers, as a case that focused on procedural fairness rather than ‘the hard rights of citizens and their plight’. I argue that because Joseph concerned a group of poor and vulnerable occupiers of an inner-city building deprived of their electricity, resulting in an inability to meet their basic needs: to cook, refrigerate their food, heat their homes, do homework, operate medical equipment, etc, Joseph is primarily a socio-economic rights case in which a requirement of the administrative law, procedural fairness, was invoked so as to protect and enforce a right to electricity. I critique the administrative law strategy invoked on behalf of the occupiers in Joseph to enforce the occupiers’ claim to have their electricity reconnected; the courts’ treatment of that strategy; and whether it is an effective and, if so, desirable tool for the enforcement of socio-economic rights in the future.