On 26 October 2017, SERI presented its recent research findings and lead discussions with paralegals and community advice officers from the 2017 Dullar Omar School for Paralegalism.
Under the theme “empowering communities for sustainable democracy”, the programme sought to develop a medium to long term education and training strategy for Community Based Paralegals.
SERI presented under the transformative constitutionalism and socio-economic rights topic. The session was led by SERI community research and advocacy officer, Edward Molopi who facilitated a session on legal and practical issues relating to evictions and relocation to alternative accommodation. This was followed up by a session led by former SERI senior researcher, Tim Fish-Hodgson and current research fellow Nthabiseng Nkhatau who facilitated sessions on informal trader’s rights with a focus traders’ rights jurisprudence and lived realities and experiences of traders, respectively. The final session on spatial mismatch and how living on the peripheries of cities and economic hubs in metro areas impacts on people’s employment prospects, creating a poverty trap, was facilitated by SERI director of research and advocacy Alana Potter.
The session and the broader programme offered participants:
SERI is excited about the continued engagement with the Dullar Omar School and hopes to contribute to the paralegal training curriculum going forward.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institue of South Africa (SERI) is looking to appoint a Senior Researcher to become an essential part of our research and advocacy team and contribute to cutting edge research, community-based public education, media advocacy and associated services, and work with a wide range of communities, community based organisations (CBOs) and social movements. The position is based at SERI's offices in Braamfontein in Johannesburg, from 1 January 2018, or as soon as possible thereafter.
Interested applicants should have:
SERI is committed to transformation. Black South Africans and women are strongly encouraged to apply.
On Tuesday, 31 October 2017 at 16h00 to 18h00, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) launches its two latest research publications on student protest. The launch takes place at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church on 16 Stiemens Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
During 2015 and 2016, students on university campuses across South Africa embarked on large-scale, disruptive protests calling for systemic changes to how universities operate and approach education, as well as how academic curricula are structured. Government, university administrators, police and private security often responded to these protests with force in an attempt to shut them down. Universities approached the courts to obtain interdicts preventing students from protesting on campuses. The police used tear gas, stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets against protesting students in often disproportionate and unlawful uses of force. SERI's new resources document the misuse of force by police during student protest at the University of the Witwatersrand in late 2016, and provide information about the rights and obligations of those involved in student protests, including students, university administrators, the police and private security.
The first publication, entitled A Double Harm: Police Misuse of Force and Barriers to Necessary Health Care Services (October 2017), is a research report which documents the injuries caused by the disproportionate and unlawful use of force by police officers called in to disperse campus-based protest at the University of the Witwatersrand in September to November 2016. It also deals with the attempts to provide medical assistance to injured protestors, and documents cases in which these efforts were obstructed. A number of particularly concerning misuses of force took place while police tried to enforce a university-wide curfew. In one instance, police officers assaulted and shot a non-threatening student in her leg at close range with rubber bullets in the early hours of the morning because she was in her room watching a movie. The report notes that the University promised to investigate the incident but has, to date, failed to provide evidence that it has done so. This and other examples of the misuse of force raises serious questions about the appropriateness of the deployment of the police to regulate campus-based protest and highlight the need to proactively plan for how to deal with casualties and ensure speedy access to independent and competent medical care once police have been called onto university campuses —otherwise, obstruction and delays would inevitably compound harm.
The second publication, entitled Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (September 2017), is a user-friendly guide for students that explains students’ rights to protest, as well as students’ rights when they are arrested, detained or charged with a crime during a protest. It also explains what laws and policies say about these rights and what legal protections students have. This resource aims to create awareness of the rights and obligations of those involved in student protests to encourage students, university administrators, police and private security officials to respect human rights and mitigate the disproportionate and unlawful use of force.
SERI hopes that these new research outputs demonstrate that more needs to be done to respond reasonably and with respect to student protest, and that the public order police are, at best, a blunt instrument when deployed in response to campus-based protest action.
On 24 October 2017, SERI's director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, challenged a number of myths about foreign migrants' access to housing in South Africa as part of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)'s indaba on access to housing for foreign migrants living in Gauteng. The idaba comes in the wake of comments made by the Mayor of the CIty of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, about his plans to evict and deport undocumented foreign migrants as part of his urban regeneration strategy. Panellists at the indaba included government officials, academics, and civil society representatives from a wide array of organisations, including SERI, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and African Diaspora Forum.
Potter's presentation focused on addressing some of the prevailing myths about foreign migrants and their access to housing. During her presentation, Potter stated:
"The [City of Johannesburg's] logic - or illogic - is that by evicting or deporting poor and undocumented people the city will become attractive to private investment for affordable housing ... Evicting, arresting and deporting foreign nationals is making no inroads towards addressing the structural and systemic issues that drive the inner-city accommodation crisis."
For more on Potter's presentation at the indaba, see the following media coverage:
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) is launching two new publications: A Double Harm: Police Misuse of Force and Barriers to Necessary Health Care Services (a report documenting the disporpotionate and illegal use of force by the police during student protests) and Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (a user-friendly guide to the law governing protests, interdicts and the use of force by the police and private security).
These publications aim to create awareness of the rights and obligations of those involved in student protests to encourage students, university administrators, police and private security officials to respect human rights and mitigate the disproportionate and unlawful use of force.
The launch will include a panel discussion between student first aid volunteers, human rights lawyers who provided legal assistance to students during the protests, human rights researchers with extensive experience in document human rights abuses and physicians.
The launch will take place at the Trinity Residence Hall of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein on 31 October 2017, 16h00 to 18h00.