On 24 January 2019, the Mail and Guardian published an article written by Musawenkosi Cabe, a reporter working with New Frame, on the current developments to amend section 1 (xix)(v) of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 ("COIDA") to provide domestic workers with protection against occupational injuries and disease.
SERI represents Sylvia Mahlangu, the daughter of Maria Mahlangu, a domestic worker who drowned in her employer’s pool. Maria’s family were, upon enquiry, informed by the Department of Labour that they could not be compensated for her death because domestic workers were excluded from the benefits COIDA.
In October 2018, the Minister of Labour published the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment Bill, 2018 for public comment. The Amendment Bill seeks to amend COIDA so as “to provide coverage for domestic employees.”
The amendment comes in the wake of a court challenge, brought by SERI along with a number of domestic workers, unions and civil society organisations, to COIDA's exclusion of domestic workers.
This challenge was further reinforced by the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommendation that South Africa amend COIDA to offer protection to domestic workers against occupational injuries and disease in it’s concluding observations on the initial report submitted by South Africa.
The purpose was to hold a space in which government and civil society could dialogue on the urban land question, given the significance of the land question in the current period, with a specific focus on land for human settlements. The idea was to inform the national Department of Human Settlements’ policy and legal review process.
Government officials from the HDA, Department of Land Reform and Rural Development and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) attended. A range of non government stakeholders participated as well including LandNNEs, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), the National Social Housing Organisation (Nasho), Ndifuna Ukwazi, the Development Action Group (DAG) and Slum Dwellers International (SDI).
The first half of the event was devoted to government inputs, and discussion, while the second half was an opportunity for NGOs to present their perspectives on the issue. The HDA, SALGA, COGTA and the South African Cities Network gave presentations in the morning session, while SERI, Nasho, DAG and Ndifuna Ukwazi presented in the afternoon session, with SDI wrapping up the civil society panel.
Royston presented for SERI focusing on a framework for urban land reform, motivating the need for a reform agenda using the three legs of land reform derived from Section 25 of the Constitution namely, restitution, redistribution and tenure reform.
SERI, together with other key stakeholders, has subsequently made presentations and participated in discussion with the Presidency’s Advisory Panel on Land Reform.
In December 2018, SERI launched a case in the Gauteng High Court to hold Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, City Manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni and Director of Housing Thabo Maisela individually responsible for providing alternative accommodation for the Ingelosi residents.
This followed a ruling by the Gauteng High Court in April 2018 that the City should provide alternative accommodation close to Ingelosi House by the end of October 2018. The City has not provided accommodation to date.
The article quotes SERI senior attorney, Thulani Nkosi who notes, “[t]here’s nothing that makes someone act like a threat of imprisonment … this is a last resort and we are prepared to see it through. In other words, if it means that we’ve got to send the mayor to prison, that’s what we intend doing,”
On 20 December 2018, SERI, filed an application for special leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) against a Pretoria High Court judgment issued against Rachel Zwane, a 61 year old woman residing in Ennerdale. The judgment, issued on 28 November 2018, suggests that it is permissible to prosecute unlawful occupiers, as defined by the PIE Act, for trespass.
Zwane lived with her two daughters and four grandchildren in a small house in Ennerdale outside of Johannesburg since early 2001. She purchased the house with the assistance of a mortgage bond in 2001. Zwane lost her job in 2008 when her employer of 20 years ceased trading, she struggled to keep up with her mortgage bond payments and fell into arrears. Without receiving proper notice, her bank sold her home in execution. The new owner of the property sought and obtained a default eviction order against her. Again, Zwane received no notice of the eviction application, or of the date of the eviction hearing. The first time Zwane became aware of the eviction proceedings was when she was actually forcibly evicted from her home in May 2012.
Left on the street by her house, she, her two children, and four grandchildren, had nowhere else to go. In their desperation, one of Zwane’s grandchildren climbed back into the house through a broken window and opened the front door of the house from the inside.
Three years later, in January 2016, Zwane was brought to trial on criminal charges of house breaking and trespass. The magistrate convicted her on the charge of trespass and acquitted her on the charge of house-breaking.
SERI, on behalf of Zwane, appealed her conviction in the Pretoria High Court. On 28 November 2018, the Gauteng Provincial Division of the High Court dismissed her appeal against the conviction and the sentence. SERI, on behalf of Zwane is appealing the case in the SCA arguing that the High Court has inappropriately placed its stamp of approval on a process which permits a person to be evicted from their home without notice, and then convicted of a criminal offence simply because they are too poor to find alternative accommodation.
SERI acts for the residents of Ingelosi House situated in Hillbrow, Johannesburg in an application to enforce an order granted by the Johannesburg High Court, directing the City of Johannesburg to provide the residents with alternative accommodation. There are 21 households on the property, comprising about 90 people, including 37 children. Many of the families have been living on the property for over eight years.
SERI previously acted for the residents in an application for leave to appeal against an eviction order granted in the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court on 28 May 2014. The appeal was heard before a full bench of the Johannesburg High Court and on 19 May 2017 the court set aside the eviction and remitted the matter back to the High Court.
On 16 April 2018, the High Court granted the eviction of the residents by 30 November 2018 on condition that the City provides the residents with alternative accommodation at least one month before the eviction. The court thus ordered the municipality to provide alternative accommodation to the residents by 31 October 2018. Furthermore, the court ordered the City to provide the residents, in writing, the nature and location of the alternative accommodation that will be provided by 31 August 2018.
The City failed to comply with the order and on 20 December 2018, SERI filed an application to enforce the order directing the City of Johannesburg to provide our clients at Ingelosi House with alternative accommodation.