On 12 September 2019, SERI participated in the 3rd Annual Dialogue on Human Rights and Policing hosted by the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF) in partnership with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The event brought together key actors and organisations in the fields of policing, government, police oversight, research, advocacy and activism to discuss critical and persistent issues related to policing and human rights in South Africa.
The dialogue comprised of four panel discussions: The first panel discussed ‘strengthening human rights compliance in places of custody’; the second panel looked at the ‘criminalisation of poverty’; the third panel unpacked issues around ‘public order policing’; and the fourth dealt with ‘crime and policing’ in terms of the militarisation of policing and concerns around privacy and surveillance.
SERI’s director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, facilitated the third panel discussion on public order policing. Alana introduced the panel by contextualising the issue of public order policing with the recent #AmINext protests and the heavy-handed police response that they have received as well as the wider context of growing inequality, crime, dissatisfaction and dissent combined with continued challenge of under-resourced and poorly equipped public order police.
Professor Christof Heyns (member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee), presented on the right to assemble from an international law perspective by looking at international and regional principles and standards. Zamantungwa Khumalo (SERI attorney) reflected on public order policing seven years after the Marikana Massacre and the progress SERI has made representing the families of the 34 miners who died at the hands of the police. Thandi Mathews (SAHRC attorney) discussed the potential amendment of the Regulation of Gatherings Act in light of the Mlungwana Constitutional Court judgment of 2018. Chumile Sali (APCOF project officer) shed light on some of the concerns APCOF and other civil society organisations shared about the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill which is currently awaiting to be signed into law.
Some of the main themes and concerns to come from the discussion include the issue continued police violations of human rights in terms of their management of protests; their engagements with foreign nationals; and the treatment of other vulnerable groups such as the informal traders, sex-workers and homeless people, who often find themselves on the receiving end of unequally enforced bylaws. The uneven and irregularly enforced Regulations of Gatherings Act emerged a key area of debate particularly in light of the pending amendment of the Act. Activists reiterated their concerns with the way the Act is administered by local government officials and the police. Many argued that the Act and its notification procedure has often been used to stifle dissent. The audience robustly discussed the manner in which the Act should be amended particularly in terms of its purpose of protecting and promoting the right to protest while encouraging effective police facilitation of protest.
The Dialogue called for the Minister of Police to release of the post-Marikana Expert Panel Report on Public Order Policing, which has been pending for almost 2 years. APCOF will produce a full report on the 2019 Dialogue.
On 11 September 2019, SERI participated in the National Upgrading Support Programme’s (NUSP) Community of Practice Workshop on the upgrading of informal settlements. SERI researchers, Tiffany Ebrahim and Thato Masiangoako, screened and briefly discussed the short documentary, The Struggle to Be Ordinary, which looks at the difficulties women with disabilities face in accessing sanitation in the informal settlement of Slovo Park. They also presented on SERI's Informal Settlement Action Research Series entitled Informal Settlement in South Africa: Norms, Practices and Agency. This research series looks at life in the informal settlements of Ratanang (located in the west of Klerksdorp CBD in the City of Matlosana, North West province), Marikana (located in Philippi East in the City of Cape Town, Western Cape province) and Siyanda (located in KwaMashu, eThekwini, in the KwaZulu-Natal province).
The purpose of the Community of Practice is to promote the incremental in situ upgrading of informal settlements and brings together government officials, members of civil society and academia to share their experiences and lessons with informal settlement upgrading. Other presenters included Dr Claudia Loggia, from the ISULabaNtu community-led upgrading project, and Ms Mirjam Van Donk and Rebecca Matsie from Isandla Institute.
Lerato Marole and other representatives from the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) also participated in the Community of Practice and shared some of their experiences of working with the City of Johannesburg to enforce the Slovo Park judgment and emphasised the importance of community leadership and meaningful engagement with communities on the part of government.
Transnet seeks eviction despite conceding that half the traders are not on its land
Lawyers from SERI appear in the Mahikeng High Court tomorrow, 6 September 2019, to defend dozens of Mogwase informal traders against eviction. The eviction is sought by Transnet, which says that the Mogwase traders are trading illegally on its land.
In their answering papers, however, the traders demonstrate that Transnet is mistaken about which land the traders are doing business on. Drawing on records from the Registrar of Deeds, SERI was able to show that the Mogwase traders are in fact on land immediately next to Transnet’s property, and not actually on it. In its reply and a subsequent site inspection, Transnet conceded that at least half of the Mogwase traders are not actually on its land. The Mogwase traders persist in their contention that none of them are actually trading on Transnet’s land.
Despite its concession, Transnet still seeks the eviction of all of the traders in its written argument. But SERI argues that an eviction order cannot be granted where there is no acceptable evidence that the traders are actually on Transnet’s land.
Evicting the traders will infringe their rights to dignity, which Transnet, as an organ of state, is constitutionally required to respect. The Mogwase traders have a right to trade to feed their families. If they could not trade, they would be destitute.
SERI will also argue that the traders’ rights can easily be protected through a project currently being implemented by the Moses Kotane Municipality, which will see the traders being given access to stalls on another site, hopefully by the end of October 2019. Despite being informed of the project, Transnet has pushed its case to court, and now seeks and eviction order. This, SERI will argue, is incompatible with Transnet’s constitutional obligations. Even if it owns the land it claims, Transnet should nevertheless be ordered to engage with the traders to ensure that they can relocate to the municipality’s stands and preserve their fragile livelihoods without interruption.
Zamantungwa Khumalo, the Mogwase traders’ attorney said: “Transnet’s conduct falls far short of what should be expected of an organ of state. In seeking to push the matter to court now, Transnet asks the High Court to destroy the fragile livelihoods of dozens of poor and vulnerable people and their families. There is simply no need to do this.”
On Thursday, 29 August 2019, SERI’s Lauren Royston presented at an Upgrading Informal Settlements Policy/Programme Reform workshop hosted by the Department of Human Settlements at the OR Tambo Garden Court hotel in Johannesburg. The 50 workshop participants included representatives from the National Department of Human Settlements, the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), architects, practitioners, NGOs, and community organisations.
The workshop was organised to review the current status of Upgrading Informal Settlement Programme (UISP) implementation and the proposal for the development of an UISP Grant which will consist of funding ring-fenced from the Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) and Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) exclusively for informal settlement upgrading.
Royston presented on SERI research publications completed in Marikana informal settlement, Ratanang informal settlement and Siyanda informal settlement which aim to shed light on the more plausible measures that can be taken in order to improve the ways in which informal settlement upgrading is carried out.
She highlighted the key recommendations gleaned from the reports including:
Royston also discussed tenure security in informal settlement upgrading in the context of urban land reform.
The DHS will produce a draft policy note to guide the UISP Grant in the next year.
On Saturday, 24 August 2018, the Business Day published a co-written article by Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance’s Amy Tekie and SERI’s Kelebogile Khunou on the plight of domestic workers and farm workers in South Africa. The op-ed makes an argument for farm workers and domestic workers to be paid the minimum wage and further helps employers understand the difference between a minimum and a living wage.
“Farm workers and domestic workers are widely recognised as two of the most vulnerable occupational groups in the country. Despite attempts by the South African government to provide legal protections, little has changed for many farm and domestic workers who work in intolerable conditions with low wages and no formal terms of employment”, they write.
This Women’s Month, a coalition of civil society organisations and labour unions introduced the One Wage Campaign, calling for the inclusion of farm workers, domestic workers and Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) employees in the R20 per hour minimum wage. The op-ed also draws attention to this campaign.
To learn more about alivingwage, see Open Up’s Living Wage Calculator. Designed in conversation with domestic workers, it breaks down the costs of basic needs of domestic workers and their families and suggests to employers a fair wage.