Lawyers for Human Rights has six programme areas that focus on promoting and protecting rights of the marginalised in post-apartheid South Africa.

Land and Housing Programme

The Land and Housing Programme aims to protect the constitutional property rights of all disadvantaged and vulnerable people in South Africa. The programme is a leading advocate in efforts to address failed land reform programs, land claims, developing common law and ownership, regularising legal entities holding land, communal land and mining issues, large scale evictions, and other property rights.


The Land and Housing Programme assists in addressing historical property and land injustices of previously disadvantaged communities in South Africa, particularly women and their housing rights.

The programme also works to protect the rights of residential tenants, and to prevent unfair banking practices which may result in the loss of a home.

Our work involves the protection of both existing land rights, and tenure:

  • In the realm of land reform, one of the country’s most critical areas for analysis and debate today, the programme has a long history of representation of rural communities after the 1998 deadline for the institution of land claims by individuals and communities dispossessed of their land under apartheid. The programme engages with rural communities that have encountered problems with various regional land claims commissions, particularly in relation to competing claims, and claims opposed by current landowners.
  • The programme has represented mining-affected communities in the critical challenge to the Mining Charter, with the effect that the High Court of Johannesburg identified these communities for the first time to be essential stakeholders in the negotiation of the Mining Charter.
  • The programme also represents other mine affected communities, in cases that raises pertinent issues relating to land tenure reform, and informal land rights. Here, it is argued that power over communal land in the hands of traditional authorities represents another form of land dispossession.  Rather than empowering rural Black communities by securing their land rights, it leaves them vulnerable to mining companies riding roughshod over their land rights.
  • The LHP deals with a number of cases in urban areas, the current focus is on evictions both of large groups and individuals, to protect poor people’s property rights when it is destroyed or confiscated by the municipalities, the integration of reclaimers in the formal waste management systems of municipalities, rights of traders who experience difficulties with when they must make way for malls.

To get in touch with the Land and Housing Programme, send an email to Etta Marias (Programme Administrator) or call the Pretoria LHR office on 012 320 2943.

The programme has the following Units:

Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme/Statelessness

LHR established the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme (RMRP) in 1996. Walk-in law clinics provide legal advice and representation, to ensure due process for asylum seekers and refugees. The programme also builds networks and is part of the social justice movement to combat xenophobia through engagement and education at community level. We advocate for the prevention of xenophobia, and work to promote access to protection for asylum seekers and refugees.

Strategic Litigation Programme

Strategic Litigation Programme litigates strategic and public interest cases that have the potential to improve the law and make a difference in peoples’ lives. The programme is active in its own litigation projects, as well as in supporting the litigation of LHR’s other programmes.

Penal Reform Programme

South Africa’s prisons and penal system have been plagued by grave concerns for years despite their being robust and progressive legislation protecting the rights of accused persons and sentenced offenders. The Penal Reform Programme is a response to the growing need for the protection and fulfilment of such rights. We seek to achieve this through strategic litigation, research and advocacy.

Environmental Rights Programme

The Environmental Rights Programme focuses on environmental justice for marginalised communities and individuals. It seeks to promote and enforce the constitutional environmental right, as well as a just distribution of environmental benefits and burdens in our society more generally.

Gender Equality Programme

The Gender Equality Programme pursues systemic remedies for gender-based violence and discrimination in South Africa and the region. It also provides capacity and technical expertise to other LHR programmes. The programme serves women and girls, and LGBTIQ+ communities.