SERI researcher, Tiffany Ebrahim is attending the ninth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) taking place at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) in Malaysia from 7 to 13 February 2018. The World Urban Forum (WUF) is a non-legislative technical forum convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) held since 2002.
The Forum gathers a wide range of experts from every walk of life. Participants of the Forum include, but are not limited to, national, regional and local governments, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, professionals, research institutions and academies, professionals, private sector, development finance institutions, foundations, media and United Nations organizations and other international agencies.
It is recognized as the foremost global arena for interaction among policymakers, local government leaders, non-governmental organizations and expert practitioners in the field of sustainable urban development and human settlements.
This will be the first session to focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda adopted in Habitat III in 2016. It will be instrumental to substantively feed into the inputs for the first report of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
On 31 January 2018, SERI attorney, Zamatungwa Khumalo, spoke at an event organised by Amnesty International at the University of the Witwatersrand about students' right to protest. The event was attended by a group of approximately 15 students. Khumalo's presentation dealt with the rights associated with protest and the recent ground-breaking court case in Mlungwana v the State, as well as students' powers to record the activities of police officers and security guards during protest action.
The presentation was on based SERI's recent resource guide, entitled Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (September 2017), which explains students' rights to protest, as well as students' rights when they are arrested, detained or charged with a crime during a protest. The guide also explain what laws and policies say about these rights and what legal protections students have. The guide aims to create awareness of the rights and obligations of those involved in stduent protests to encourage students, university administrators, police and private security guards to respect human rights and mitigate the disproportionate and unlawful use of force. Copies of the guide were distributed at the event.
A group of Johannesburg-based domestic workers participated in a workshop hosted by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) on Saturday, 27 January 2018 in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The workshop also brought together a number of civil society groups, union representatives and government officials, including Ronald Wesso of the Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), members of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) and two employers. The workshop provided domestic workers with the opportunity to discuss their working conditions and the challenges they face as one of the most vulnerable groups in South African society, and reflect on the rights and protections domestic workers have under South African law.
The workshop also offered SERI the opportunity to present its user-friendly draft resource guide on the rights and legal protections of domestic workers to the group and obtain invaluable feedback. The feedback from the workshop will be incorporated into the resourceguide, which will be published later this year.
The workshop was facilitated by SERI researcher, Kelebogile Khunou.
On 24 January 2018, the Western Cape High Court declared section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gathering Act 205 of 1993 (the Gatherings Act), the primary piece of legislation that governs protests in South Africa, unconstitutional. Section 12(1)(a) made it a criminal offence to intentionally convene a gathering without notifying the municipality that the gathering would take place. In declaring this provision unconstitutional, judge Thandazwa Ndita said that a criminal sanction was "disproportionate to the offence" as it may result in people "carry[ing] with them the stigma" of a criminal conviction. Instead, judge Ndita suggested that civil liability may be a more appropriate penalty for failing to notify the municipality of an intended protest.
The case was brought to court by a small group of community-based activists and members of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) who participated in a peaceful protest outside the Mayor of the City of Cape Town’s offices in Cape Town on 11 September 2013. During the protest, the protestors chained themselves to the railings of the City’s civic centre. Twenty one protesters were arrested and charged under section 12(1)(a) for unlawfully and intentionally convening a gathering without notifying the municipality that the gathering would take place. During the criminal proceedings that followed in the Magistrates’ Court, the accused protestors were held to have convened the protest and found guilty of the charges laid against them. The protestors appealed to the Western Cape High Court, where they asked the court to declare section 12(1)(a) unconstitutional. The protestors argued that criminalising the conveners of a protest simply because they did not notify the relevant authorities that they intended to protest unjustifiably infringed their constitutional right to peacefully assemble.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, represented by SERI, was admitted as amicus curiae in the matter. On 14 and 15 June 2017, SERI made oral submissions on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. SERI’s submission was based on an international law perspective and urges the court to have regard to international law standards and principles when considering the constitutionality of section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act. SERI argues that holding organisers criminally liable for failing to notify authorities about a protest was a restriction of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
On 18 January 2018, Ground Up reported on a recent ground-breaking judgment in the North Gauteng High Court against Ekurhuleni municipality for the municipality's 17-year delay in building state-subsidised houses for 133 residents of the Winnie Mandela informal settlement near Tembisa. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) represented the residents of Winnie Mandela informal settlement in the case.
In the judgment, handed down on 15 December 2017, judge Mmonoa Teffo found that Ekurhuleni had failed to provide the residents with houses that were constructed with their government-approved housing subsidies. The houses were instead occupied by other, unknown people, often as a result of corruption in the housing allocation process, which Ekurhuleni controls. This, the court found, breached the residents’ constitutional and statutory housing rights.
Ground Up hails the case as a significant victory for residents of informal settlements whose housing subsidy applications have been approved. It states that "[t]he judgment is a timely reminder that the state cannot drag its feet to provide such people with homes" and that the "failure to provide a reasonable explanation for misallocation of houses will not be tolerated by the courts".