On Wednesday 18 March 2020, SERI attorney Khululiwe Bhengu joined Sakina Kamwendo on SABC News to discuss the raids case that is currently before the High Court.
Khulululiwe discussed why the 2,852 inner-city residents that SERI represents are challenging the constitutionality of section 13(7) of the South African Police Services Act which was used as the legal basis for conducting 18 of the 20 warrantless raids that were conducted between 30 June 2017 and 3 May 2018. The other two raids were conducted with no authorisation at all.
During the raids, which were jointly conducted by the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), the Department of Home Affairs and the City of Johannesburg, officials forced residents out of the buildings and onto the streets (often in the middle of the night while residents were only partially clothed), where they were searched, finger-printed and commanded to produce copies of their identity documents, passports or asylum seekers’ permits. Anyone who was unable to produce their identity documents was detained.
Khululiwe explained that the section should be declared unconstitutional because it allowed for the violation of the residents' rights to privacy and dignity. She highlighted that the Constitutional Court has, in various matters, consistently ruled against the use of warrantless searches because of their violation of these constitutional rights.
Khululiwe also explained how the act was used to bypass existing pieces of legislation such as the Immigration Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institue of South Africa (SERI) is looking to appoint a senior researcher and two candidate attorneys to join its offices in Johannesburg.
Reporting to the Director of Research and Advocacy, the Senior Researcher will be expected to help develop and implement a wide-ranging research programme.
SERI is authorised by the Legal Practice Council to accept and train CAs. CAs are recruited for a fixed-term of two years, leading to qualification and admission as an Attorney. The requirements for the positions are as follows -
SERI wishes to contribute to the development of a new generation of human rights lawyers at the national and international level. Accordingly, the positions carry with them significant opportunities for international travel and continuing professional training and development.
On Monday, 16 March 2020, the residents of 11 buildings in inner-city Johannesburg, represented by SERI, appeared in front of the full bench of the High Court in Johannesburg to challenge the lawfulness and constitutionality of over 20 police raids of their homes. The raids were conducted between 30 June 2017 and 3 May 2018 in terms of section 13 (7) of the South African Police Services (SAPS) Act while two of the raids were conducted without any legal authority at all.
In several raids, as many as 80 officials from the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Johannesburg metropolitan police department (JMPD), the department of home affairs and the City of Johannesburg made their way to the buildings. They forced the residents out of the buildings and onto the streets, sometimes in their nightdresses, where they were searched, finger-printed and commanded to produce copies of their identity documents, passports or asylum seekers’ permits. Inside the buildings, the police left the residents’ homes in disarray. They broke down doors and partitions, damaged furniture and even stole valuable items and small amounts of cash.
The residents challenged the constitutionality of section 13(7) insofar as it allows for a person’s home to be searched without a warrant issued by a court. They further claimed compensation for the breach of their rights to privacy contained in section 14 of the South African Constitution.
Judge President Mlambo reserved judgment in the matter.
On 18 March 2020, the Mail & Guardian published an article written by SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako about the harm caused by the inner city raids and the illegal conduct of officials during the raids. These raids were conducted at the behest of the then-minister of police, Fikile Mbalula, and the then-mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba. Between 30 June 2017 and 3 May 2018, 11 inner-city buildings were raided more than 20 times, with some being raided as many as five times in 10 months.
The residents of these buildings, represented by SERI, are challenging the constitutionality of section 13(7) of the South African Police Services Act, and the grounds on which these raids were conducted. On 16 March 2020, the matter was heard before a full Bench of the High Court in Johannesburg. Judgment was reserved.
The op-ed argues that the piece of legislation relied on to conduct the raids (section 13(7) of the SAPS Act) was used to justify a violation of the residents’ constitutional rights to privacy and dignity as part of a project that envisions Johannesburg as a city that belongs to some to the exclusion of others.
Masiangoako writes: "the presumed criminality of those people who are policed and the criminal conduct of the police who raided their homes shines a light on the crisis in policing in South Africa".
On 6 March 2020, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) submitted an objection to the City of Cape Town's proposal to renew the lease of 45.99 hectares to the Rondebosch Golf Club in accordance with the invitation to submit written comments. The proposed lease would be for a period of ten years at a cost of R1,058 per year. The City proposes the lease to allow the land to maintain its sport and social use. The City states that the existence of the golf club would provide significant benefit to the community as well as rental income, profits from tourism and the creation of jobs through substantial investment into resort developments.
The submission argued that:
The Rondebosch site represents an opportunity for the City to disrupt this inequitable pattern of development, by providing affordable housing so that poor and working class people can take advantage of the benefits of economically and socially well-located land. The land in question is 45.99 hectares in extent, or an area the size of 45 full-sized soccer fields. It is located in close proximity to public hospitals, schools and is only 10 minutes away from the city centre. According to research conducted by activist organisation and law centre, Ndifuna Ukwazi, the parcel proposed for lease could yield 165,000m2 of floor space with around 2,500 new homes.7 Of these 2,500 units, 1,433 could be cross-subsidized affordable housing, providing homes to roughly 2,400 people who could otherwise not afford to live close to economic opportunities and decent social amenities.
SERI argued in its submission that the renewal of the lease of to the Rondebosch Golf Club will entrench prevailing patterns of ownership and advantage and will contradict the City’s constitutional obligation under section 25(5) to “take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.”
Read the full submission here.