- Court finds Marikana housing activist Napoleon Webster not guilty (22 May 2018). On 22 May 2018, the North West High Court discharged Marikana housing and land rights activist, Napoleon Webster. The court discharged Webster and found him not guilty after the prosecution failed to produce any evidence that linked Webster to the death of a local ward councillor. Prosecutors ultimately conceded that Webster was entitled to an acquittal, and accepted that the State had failed to “establish [Webster’s] involvement” in the murder. >> Read the full statement here.
- Rhodes University expels two student activists for life over April 2016 protests (12 December 2017). SERI represents Yolanda Dyantyi, a student activist, matters concerning her participation in anti-rape protests on the Rhodes University campus during April 2016. In March 2017, months after the protests, the university instituted disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Dyantyi. Ms. Dyantyi was convicted in her absence, and permanently excluded from the university. All of her most recent examinations were invalidated. As far as SERI has been able to ascertain, this is the harshest penalty the niversity has imposed for ten years for any offence whatsoever, including rape and sexual violence on campus. >>Read the full statement here.
- SERI launches two research publications on student protests (31 August 2017). On Tuesday, 31 October 2017, SERI launches its two latest research publications on student protest entitled A Double Harm: Police Misuse of Force and Barriers to Necessary Health Services (October 2017) and Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (September 2017). These resources document the misuse of force by police during student protests at the University of theWitwatersrand in October 2016. They also provide information about rights and obligations of those involved in student protests, including students, university administrators, the police and private security. >>Read the full press statement here.
- Launch of new video emphasises lack of justice for Marikana (20 March 2017). At 9h30 on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2017, families of the mineworkers killed at Marikana, mineworkers and members of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), with the support of the Marikana Support Campaign, gathered in Slovo Park to commemorate the Sharpeville and Marikana massacres. The event will included the launch of a new SERI short film, Bringing the Truth Home, and started a week-long campaign to raise awareness about the slow progress of the state and Lonmin in ensuring that there is justice for the victims of Marikana. >>Read the full media alert here.
- High Court lifts Rhodes protest crackdown (1 December 2016). The Grahamstown High Court dismissed Rhodes University’s application for an order regulating student protest on its campus. The University wanted to finalise an interim order it was granted in April 2016, when a group of at least 200 students started a spontaneous protest against what they say is a culture of rape and sexual violence at Rhodes. >>Read the full statement here.
- Wits students left without relief as interdict application dismissed (3 November 2016). The Gauteng Local Division of the High Court dismissed an application of more than 25 students of the University of the Witwatersrand to interdict the University and restrict it from commencing its year-end examinations, and postponing examinations by at least two weeks. Their preparations had been curtailed, through no fault of their own, by recent #FeesMustFall protests on campus and the University’s response to them. >>Read the full statement here.
- 28 informal settlement residents granted bail after 3 weeks in prison (16 February 2016). The Lenasia Magistrates’ Court granted bail to 28 residents of Precast and Thembelihle informal settlements, who had been arrested in the wake of two days of protest in the area. Despite there being no evidence that any of the residents had committed any offence, they were detained for almost three weeks at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre (Sun City). >>Read the full statement here.
For a full archive of all SERI press statements from 2010 to 2015 see here.
- Herman Mashaba’s pro-poor plans for Joburg seem a bit rich, Dennis Webster and Alana Potter, Business Day (12 May 2017).
- Web archives open up the truth about Marikana, Safia Khan and Tim Fish Hodgson, Mail & Guardian (24 March 2017).
- Justice is a scarce resource, Khuselwa Dyantyi, The Star (23 March 2017).
- Who owns the story of South Africa’s Marikana massacre?, Keaton Allen-Gessesse, Ford Foundation (23 March 2017).
- The guns in Marikana were aimed at the families of slain workers too, Lwazi Mtshiyo and Tim Fish Hodgson, Business Day (21 March 2017).
- Fees Will Rise In 2017. What Can We Learn From The Learning Conditions On Campuses In 2016?, Thulani Nkosi and Tim Fish Hodgson, Huffington Post (13 December 2016).
- What students will learn from exercise of power, Stuart Wilson and Nomzamo Zondo, Business Day (21 October 2016).
- Letter: Farm Strike Not Illegal, Bhavna Ramji, Business Day (20 July 2015).
- Judge Farlam’s Accidental Massacre, Stuart Wilson, Daily Maverick (26 June 2015).
- When attacking NGOs, the government is rendering the poor invisible, Stuart Wilson, Daily Maverick (23 June 2015).
- Closing the doors of justice? The South African Constitutional Court’s approach to direct access, Jackie Dugard, openGlobalRights (25 May 2015).
- Human rights 'made whole', Jackie Dugard and Mbekezeli Benjamin, The New Age (28 January 2015).
- After the Marikana Commission: What now?, Stuart Wilson, Daily Maverick (27 November 2014).
- Without means, there are no real rights, Stuart Wilson, openGlobalRights (23 September 2014).
- Legalizing economic and social rights can help the poor: reflections from South Africa, Stuart Wilson, openGlobalRights (7 August 2014).
- SA’s transformation: No-one can do it alone, Mr Grootes, Stuart Wilson, Daily Maverick (27 January 2014).
- Dear Mr Grootes: A welfare state is a just state, Stuart Wilson, Daily Maverick (21 January 2014).
- Information: the first step towards active citizenry, Jackie Dugard and Thapelo Tselapedi, Daily Maverick (25 November 2013).
- Marikana inquiry’s mistakes call for a rethink, Jackie Dugard, Business Day (11 September 2013).
- Marikana ruling hardly ‘excellent’, Stuart Wilson, Mail and Guardian (23 August 2013).
- Snail's pace hampers Marikana Commission, Jackie Dugard and Kate Tissington, Sunday Times (30 June 2013).
- What the protesters really want, Jackie Dugard and Kate Tissington, The Witness (10 May 2013).
- State suppression of popular dissent should concern us all, Michael Clark and Jackie Dugard, Business Day (6 March 2013).
- Marikana violence is a sign of things to come, Jackie Dugard, Bonita Meyersfeld and Nikki Naylor, Business Day (23 August 2012).
- Taking liberties: Ivo Vegter on Socio-Economic Rights, Stuart Wilson, Daily Maverick (20 April 2012).
- In defence of the Concourt, Jackie Dugard and Kate Tissington, The Star (14 December 2011).
- Press freedom: Free but superficial media overlooks important stories, Jackie Dugard, Business Day (27 September 2010).
For a full list of op-eds written by SERI staff, see here.
- SERI and AbM host paralegal workshop in Pietermaritzburg (23 May 2015). On 23 May 2015 Abahlali baseMjondolo and SERI held a workshop with approximately 60 residents of the Tumbleweed informal settlement, located outside of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. The settlement is currently under the threat of eviction and represented by SERI. Participants at the workshop discussed their legal rights against unlawful evictions, methods of organising themselves, and screened the documentary film Dear Mandela. The workshop was presented by SERI staff members Michael Leonard and Lwazi Mshiyo was based on the recently launched Dear Mandela Toolkit.
- SERI and AbM host paralegal workshop in Durban (20 May 2015). On 16 and 17 May SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) hosted a paralegal workshop with community activists based in and around Durban. The workshop covered a broad range of legal topics including defending against lawful evictions, resisting unlawful evictions, identifying the unlawful use of court interdicts as eviction orders, and the criminalization of public protest. The workshop was presented by SERI staff members Bhavna Ramji and Mbekezeli Benjamin, and was based on the recently launched Dear Mandela Toolkit.
- SERI holds Inner City Workshop for building committees (27 March 2015). On Sunday 22 March 2015 SERI held an Inner City Workshop for committee members from a number of buildings where we represent the residents. 39 people attended the workshop from 14 inner city buildings, including: MBV 1, 54 Soper Road, Ekuthuleni, Jeanwell Court and Koch Mansions. The aim of the workshop was to share experiences across the different buildings and discuss a collective way forward on issues of evictions and affordable rental housing in the inner city.
- SERI presents at inaugural Dullah Omar School for the Community Advice Office Sector hosted by ACAOSA and Black Sash (9 March 2015). Between 9 and 13 March 2015 SERI and the Local Government Action (LGA) alliance will be attending the inaugural Dullah Omar School for the Community Advice Office (CAO) sector, hosted by the Association for Community Advice Offices of South Africa (ACAOSA) and the Black Sash. SERI and LGA will present a course module to participants entitled "Understanding Local Government: An Activist’s Guide". The aim of the module is to strengthen the CAO sector through facilitating an understanding of local government and its role and responsibilities. Download the programme here.
- SERI conducts second "Dear Mandela" workshop in Diepkloof, Soweto (6 September 2014). On 6 September, SERI partnered with the Soweto Concerned Residents (SCR) to host its second "Dear Mandela" workshop in Diepkloof, Soweto. The workshop consisted of a screening of the documentary, a facilitated discussion to explore the main themes arising from the film and an interactive training session which provided activists with information on how to resist evictions. The workshop was attended by approximately 20 community activists.
- SERI hosts workshop on the findings of the Community Practice Notes: Informal Settlement Series (4 September 2014). On 4 September, SERI hosted a workshop to present the findings of the Community Practice Notes: Informal Settlement Series published in August 2014. The first series of community practice notes documents how CBOs in four informal settlements have organised and mobilised in their struggles for development, particularly around in situ upgrading of informal settlements. Representatives from the CBOs profiled in the series participated in the workshop which aimed to discuss and evaluate the tactics and strategies employed by CBOs, as well as unpack the challenges faced by communities fighting for development. Find the community practice notes here and see photos of the workshop here.
- SERI conducts pilot "Dear Mandela" screening and workshop in Lindelane informal settlement (30 May 2014). SERI partnered up with the directors of the full length documentary film "Dear Mandela" and Local Government Action (LGA) to host a pilot Dear Mandela audience engagement workshop for approximately 40 people in Lindelane informal settlement outside Daveyton. Lindelani residents face a severe lack of basic services and are subject to constant threat of eviction. The workshop consisted of a screening of the film, followed by a discussion about the directors' work with the shackdwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo. Using the film as a springboard, SERI engaged the community about defending themselves from illegal evictions, their right to protest and ways to engage local government officials. See photos of the workshop here.
- SERI hosts second inner city housing workshop (12 April 2014). As a follow up to the workshop held in August 2013, SERI covened a workshop on organising and mobilising in Hillbrow in April 2014. The workshop was attended by members of a number of inner city building committees involved in evictions litigation. Representatives from Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) and Informal Settlement Network (ISN) gave presentations on their organisations' strategies and tactics, which fed into a broader discussion on mobilisation in the inner city context.
Local Government Action (LGA)
In 2011 SERI, SECTION27, and Read Hope Philips Attorneys developed a comprehensive guide on local government entitled Making Local Government Work: An Activist's Guide, for use by activists in South Africa. This helpful guide sets out the legal responsibilities of local government in South Africa and rights under the Constitution and in law. It shows how to engage government from inside, by participating in formal processes, and from outside by going public through complaints, petitions, protest action, the media and the courts.
A website for the guide - Local Government Action (LGA) - has been set up, which has all the information from the guide, as well as other useful links to organisations, resources, cases etc. Visit www.localgovernmentaction.org. LGA aims to help people:
- understand local government and what it should be doing for every community
- monitor (or keep track of) what local government is doing
- find out what to do when local government ignores the community or breaks the rules
- take action to enforce the rights to water, sanitation, electricity, housing, and health
- find organisations that can help.
- SERI involved in SAHRC hate speech complaint hearing (28 November 2011). SERI's Director of Litigation, Stuart Wilson has been appointed as an advisor to the South African Human Rights Commission's panel currently considering a range of complaints of hate speech against Julius Malema made by the Afrikanerbond. His submissions emphasise the need to consider harmful or offensive political speech in context, and to construe hate speech law narrowly in a manner which impinges as little as possible on freedom of expression. Read more here.
- SERI endorses civil society request for extension to Zimbabwe Documentation Project (9 December 2010). Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) together with a number of civil society organisations, including SERI, have endorsed a letter of complaint to the Office of the Public Protector, requesting that the deadline for Zimbabwe Documentation Project be extended. The Department of Home Affairs has refused to extend the deadline for new applications to the Zimbabwe Documentation Project, despite a number of problems with the process. Read the LHR press release here and the letter to the Public Protector here.
- SERI endorses Submission on the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, 2010. SERI has endorsed the Aids Law Project (ALP) Submission on the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, which raises some serious concerns around access to justice and the rule of law. The submission focuses on two of the proposed amendments, namely the insertion of the definition of 'disability' and the change in the appeal procedure following an adverse decision in respect of an application for a disability grant. ALP and SERI are of the view that the definition, although intended to clarify who is eligible for a grant and who is not, is actually vague and will not assist decision-makers or applicants for grants and will compound confusion in the system. The amendment to the appeal process essentially introduces a double appeal, which will likely lead to even greater delays in the finalisation of the disability grant application process and to an infringement of rights. Read the Submission and Annexure (16 April 2010), as well as a Supplementary Submission (28 April 2010).
Civil Society Coordination
- SERI co-facilitates workshop on the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR in Mongolia (April 17-19 2013). In April 2013, ESCR-Net and the Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) brought together lawyers, experts, and community leaders from Mongolia, with three main objectives: to enhance knowledge among Mongolian NGOs and public interest lawyers and social rights advocates about the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR and how it can be used in support of social rights in Mongolia; to build networks of solidarity and support among lawyers and activists in Mongolia; and to follow up with local organisations in order to identify potential cases that could be taken to the UN Committee on ESCR under the OP-ICESCR. Mongolia is one of the few countries to have ratified the OP-ICESCR. The workshop provided a space for the discussion of a range of cases being litigated in the country for the protection of social and economic rights, including labor rights, the right to education, the right to health, and the right to housing. Read more on the workshop and the materials prepared for it here.
- Discussion on the issue of 'conflict of interest' in legal firms doing pro bono litigation (21 July 2010). When is a conflict of interest genuine or not? A topical issue at present is how do firms deal with "perceived conflicts of interests" and what are real conflicts of interests when law firms just cannot take on matters. Some law firms say because they want to secure future business from a local authority/municipality, they cannot sue them for illegally breaking down shacks in an informal settlement. The repercussions for private law firms taking on pro bono socio-economic rights cases, partiucarly against municipalities, have been felt in the past. On 21 July 2010, Jackie Dugard from SERI facilitated a discussion hosted by ProBono.Org on this issue of 'conflict of interest' and how to deal with it within and across legal firms. A legal opinion was prepared for SERI on this topic and is available here.
- Socio-economic rights seminar (20-21 May 2010). SERI, together with the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and Webber Wentzel Attorneys, held a two-day seminar analysing the latest socio-economic rights decisions from the Constitutional Court (Oliva Road, Joe Slovo, Mazibuko, Joseph, Abahlali andNokotyana) and engaging with communities and social movements on the way forward. The purpose of the seminars was to analyse the implications of the recent decisions for litigators and civil society; and to engage the legal profession and social movements and community organisations in a discussion about the possible/tactical use of litigation as part of their broader strategies for change.
- Roundtable discussion on 'meaningful engagement' (4 March 2010). SERI and the Community Law Centre (CLC), University of the Western Cape co-hosted a roundtable discussion on ‘meaningful engagement’ on 4 March 2010 in Cape Town. The event was attended by social movements, community activists, lawyers, NGOs, academics and government officials, who shared their experiences and discussed the concept and practice of meaningful engagement in relation to housing and service delivery. Read the roundtable report here.
Conferences and Events
- Public Interest Law Gathering (23-24 July 2015). On the 23 to 24 July 2015, the Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) was held at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand. This is an annual event that brings together public interest legal practitioners in South Africa. PILG is organised through a coordinating committee consisting of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), ProBono.Org, Section27, the Socio-economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) and the University of the Witwatersrand, School of Law. Topics explored at PILG 2015 included: Conflicts of Interest; Recent Strategic Litigation on the Promotion of Access to Information Act; Sentencing Reform; The Public Interest Legal Services Sector; Watching Briefs; Reckless Lending and Emolument Attachment Orders; Respecting and Protecting the Rights to Freedom of Expression; Strategic Litigation and Transnational Fora; Social Assistance Advocacy and Litigation to Make Human Rights Real; The Dladla Judgment and the Provision of Temporary Alternative Accommodation. Download the full programme here.
- Commissioning the Present: Marikana and its Aftermath (21 April 2015). From 7 to 9 May 2015 SERI and the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand are hosting a convening entitled “Commissioning the Present: Marikana and its Aftermath” at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Law. Download the final programme booklet (2MB) here and visit the conference website here.
- SERI presents at New York Law School's Twenty Years of South African Constitutionalism Symposium (16 November 2014). From 13 to 16 November SERI attended a symposium hosted by New York Law School on Twenty Years of South African Constitutionalism: Constitutional Rights, Judicial Independence and the Transition to Democracy. SERI staff members Stuart Wilson, Tashwill Esterhuizen and Mbekezeli Benjamin presented three papers on a panel on "New Frontiers in Social Rights: The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa". These papers can be downloaded here.
- [Call for proposals] Commissioning the Present: Marikana and its Aftermath (20 August 2014). SERI and the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand are inviting submissions for a large public convening to engage the aftermath of the Marikana massacre and the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that followed it. This convening will take place in Johannesburg from the evening of 7 May to 9 May 2015. The public convening will provide a space in which competing narratives around what happened at Marikana can be aired, alongside and in engagement with the ‘official’ history, as set out in the Commission's report. The deadline for proposals is 26 September 2014. Download the detailed call for proposals here.
- SERI co-hosts Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) (24-25 July 2014). The fourth annual PILG was held at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand in July 2014. The event brings together public interest legal practitioners and organisations, law students, paralegals, social movement leaders and legal academics to share and develop knowledge. PILG is organised through a coordinating committee consisting of Wits School of Law, SALC, CALS, LHR, Section 27, SERI, LRC, SLSJ and ProBono.Org. Some of the interesting topics explored at the 2014 PILG included: informal trade; the role of research in public interest law; policing, protests and the criminal justice system; Commissions of Inquiry; and the role of Chapter 9 institutions. Read more on the PILG event here.
- SERI presents at Regional Consultation on Protection of Economic and Social Rights in Constitutions (25-26 November 2013). Jackie Dugard was invited to be on a panel at a workshop organised by the UNDP-Regional Center in Cairo in collaboration with Ford Foundation, IDEA, the Arab Institute for Human Rights, the Arab Organization for Human Rights, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The consultation - held in Cairo, Egypt over two days - brought together countries from the Arab region where the process for constitutional reform is still on-going or has recently finished to take stock of the status of the debate on the protection of economic and social rights in the constitution. Read more about the event and watch a video of the panel discussion here.
- SERI co-hosts Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) (10-12 July 2013). The Third Annual PILG was held at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand in July 2013. This is an annual event that brings together public interest legal practitioners and organisations, law students, paralegals, social movement leaders and legal academics to share and develop knowledge. PILG is organised through a coordinating committee consisting of Wits School of Law, SALC, CALS, LHR, Section 27, SERI, LRC, SLSJ and ProBono.Org. Some of the interesting topics explored at the 2013 PILG included: extractive industries; budgetary transparency and accountability; corporate obligations in respect of human rights; health and vulnerable populations; School Governing Bodies, school admissions policies and the right to education; customary law; Legal Practices Bill, community service and the ethics of legal representation; housing strategies post-Blue Moonlight; the criminal injustice system; addressing sexual violence in schools; community participation and mining development; using international law frameworks globally and domestically; disability law and the rights of people with disabilities; and informal settlement upgrading. Read more on the PILG event here.
- SERI co-hosts strategic planning meeting on enforcement of Endorosis decision (12 November 2012). On 12 November 2012, SERI co-hosted a strategic planning meeting on “Enforcing the Endorois decision of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights” with ESCR-Net, CEMIRIDE, Minority Rights Group International and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) at the University of Oslo. The strategic meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya.
- SERI co-hosts Wits University's Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) (11-13 July 2012). SERI co-hosted the 2012 PILG, which was held at Wits University from 11-13 July 2012. SERI organised several panels, including one on socio-economic rights and courts, and one on law and social change. Read more on the event here.
- SERI co-hosts Africa Regional Social Rights Litigation Workshop (12-14 March 2012). SERI - together with ESCR-Net, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) and OP-ICESCR Coalition - hosted the Africa Regional Social Rights Litigation Workshop from 12-14 March 2012 in Johannesburg. The first day of the workshop focused on strategic litigation: challenges and opportunities; the second day focuses on enforcement and long-term strategies in national contexts: challenges and opportunities; and the third day on OP-ICESCR ratification: building a regional strategy in Africa. Read the workshop programme here.
- SERI organises and hosts three panels at Public Interest Law Gathering (1-3 December 2011). The University of the Witwatersrand hosted the Public Interest Law Gathering from 1-3 December 2011. SERI organised and hosted a panel on law and social movements, chaired by Jackie Dugard (SERI), which included S’bu Zikode (Abahlali baseMjondolo) and Stuart Wilson (SERI) as discussant, as well as Siphiwe Segodi and Bhayi Bhayi Miya (Thembelihle Crisis Committee), and Teboho Mosikili (SERI) as discussant. Another panel on housing litigation was chaired by Heidi Barnes (Johannesburg Bar) with Stuart Wilson (SERI), Morgan Courtenay (CALS) and Sheldon Magardie (LHR) as panellists. The third panel was on basic water and sanitation, and included Jenny MacLeod (SERI) and Linda Stewart (North West University). Read more on the event here.
- SERI presents at COP17 side event (30 November 2011). SERI's Executive Director, Jackie Dugard, presented on a panel at a side event at COP17, currently being held in Durban. The side event was on Gender, Justice and Social Learning. For coverage of the panel and information on the presenters see here. For more about COP17 side events see here.