On Thursday 27 September SERI Researcher, Kelebogile Khunou participated as a panelist at Solidarity Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights’ workshop on Worker Rights in Southern Africa. The panel discussion titled, “Right to Work and Precarious Workers” explored the specific challenges faced by migrant workers, such as the casualization of migrant workers, their ability to vindicate their rights in the workplace, inter-workplace xenophobia as well as the proposal that the right to work be taken away from asylum seekers. 

Kelebogile spoke on the experience public interest legal services organisations have had representing informal traders many of whom are migrant workers. Her presentation, based on SERI and the South African Local Government Association’s publication entitled, “Informal Trade in South Africa: Legislation, Case Law and Recommendations for Local Government” focused on court judgments handed down by South African Courts in relation to the rights of informal traders. She highlighted the Constitutional Court’s judgment in South African Informal Trader’s Forum v City of Johannesburg in which the Court linked the right to trade with the right to human dignity in the Constitution, stating, “… the ability of people to earn money and support themselves and their families is an important component of the right to human dignity. Without it (informal traders) faced ‘humiliation and degradation’”. 

Kele Workers Rights2Kelebogile further spoke about the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment in Somali Association v Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism which found that the informal traders, as refugees in South Africa, enjoy the protection of the constitutional right to human dignity afforded to “everyone” in the Constitution and recognised  that  the right to dignity requires that traders should be able to earn an income, irrespective of whether it is “wage-earning employment” or “self-employment”,  as it ensures that traders are afforded the “ability to live without  positive humiliation and degradation”.  

  • Read more about the South African Informal Trader’s Forum v City of Johannesburg case here.
  • Download SERI's recent publication on informal trade in South Africa here.
  • Learn more about the rights of Informal Traders here

On 27 September, SERI's director of litigation, Nomzamo Zondo facilitated a session in a one-day international colloquium will be hosted at the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS Research) as part of the opening and study of the apartheid archives in South Africa.  The colloquium reflected on the contemporary and historical significance of the recently-restored Rivonia sound archive, as well as other legal archives. The Rivonia sound archive is a collection of audio recordings of the Rivonia Trial which were previously inaccessible to the public.  

The colloquium offered a consideration of new perspectives on liberation movements and emancipatory politics through a comparative use of experiences of colonial and repressive regimes in other parts of Africa. Zondo chaired a panel entitled “archives and the fight for the past.”  

  • Learn more about the colloquium here.  


Rivonia Trail



SERI made written comments on the draft Geneva Guidelines on Less-Lethal Weapons and related Equipment in Law Enforcement to the Geneva Academy and the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (University of Pretoria). These draft set of Guidelines relate to the lawful and responsible design, production, procurement, testing, training, transfer, and use of less-lethal weapons and related equipment.

The purpose of these Guidelines is to provide guidance to states, law enforcement agencies, human rights bodies and mechanisms, private security companies, manufacturers, and individuals or agents of any bodies using force for law enforcement purposes, human rights defenders, and individuals seeking to assert their rights on the lawful and responsible design, production, procurement, testing, training, transfer, and use of less-lethal weapons and related equipment.

This draft document aims to build upon, the United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

SERI welcomes and concurs with the broad aims of the draft Guidelines in the following aspects: 

  • FeesMustFall2To ensure accountability for the design, production, testing, transfer, deployment and use of such weapons. 
  • That there are risks of harm, including serious or even fatal injuries, where Less Lethal Weapons (LLWs) “are not used in accordance with specifications, general principles on the use of force, and fundamental human rights”; and 
  • That the intention of the Guidelinesis to promote amongst a wide range of users of LLWs “accountability for the design, production, testing, transfer, deployment and use of such weapons”
  • That in the conduct of law enforcement operations, the duty of law enforcement agencies is to “facilitate” and protect the right of peaceful assembly. 
  • That the Guidelines has included a strong iteration of the general principles on the use of force by law enforcement officials, involving legality, necessity, proportionality, non-discrimination and the principle of pre-caution
  • That the Guidelines have provided indicators for steps to entrench the accountability of law enforcement officials for “any decision to use force”, with the steps required including: 

In SERI’s experience the failure by the authorities to ensure that the above accountability measures are implemented systematically or at all, including at the level of internal post-operation reviews and lesson-learning, leaves victims of the unlawful use of force further traumatised and potentially discouraged from exercising their rights.

  • Read SERI's submission here
  • Read the draft set of guidline here.

Justice Yakoob Sanitation

Chair of SERI’s Board and former Justice of the Constitutional Court, Zak Yacoob, recently spoke about the rights of people with disabilities in an interview for an upcoming short documentary on sanitation for women and children with disabilities in informal settlements. SERI is producing the documentary together with Two Spinning Wheels Film Production and Pegasys Institute.

The Constitution guarantees the right to water and sanitation for everyone. These rights cannot only be enjoyed by the wealthy, able-bodied and people living in formal settlements to the exclusion of low-income households, people living with disabilities and those in informal settlements. The Constitution states, “[e]veryone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms." 

Unfortunately, people with disabilities continue to face numerous challenges to accessing sanitation in informal settlements, including relying on shared toilets and chemical latrines, crawling to inaccessible sanitation facilities, inaccessible hand-washing facilities at toilets, the use of alternatives such as the bucket system to avoid travelling to distant sanitation facilities during unsafe hours, and physical violence while trying to access facilities outside the home.

Government departments and state bodies have a responsibility to ensure that people with disabilities are able to access the same fundamental rights and responsibilities as any other person. 

Watch Slovo Park’s Lydia Lenyatsa speak about the sanitation challenges faced by women with disabilities living in informal settlements here.  

PHOTO 2018 09 17 09 56 36 0021

Between 10 and 14 September 2018, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) partnered with City University of London and the Bertha Foundation to host an advocacy workshop in Johannesburg. The workshop was attended by 26 delegates from a range of public interest legal services organisations, including Legal Aid South Africa, SERI, Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), the Right2Know Campaign, and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr's Legal Pro Bono Department. A number of advocates from the Johannesburg Bar also attended the workshop.  

The four-day workshop was aimed at equipping candidate attorneys, attorneys, and junior advocates working in public interest legal services organisations with practical experience in litigation and advocacy, with a particular focus on witness handling (leadng evidence and cross-examining witnesses), trial skills and bail proceedings. The workshop began with two days of lectures, practical demonstrations and practice sessions focusing on key skills development, and concluded with two mock trials.

Delegates recieved instruction from Stuart Wilson (SERI's executive director and advocate at the Johannesburg Bar), Gcina Malindi SC (senior counsel at the South African Bar), Anna-Marie de Vos SC (senior councel at the South African Bar), Nikki Walsh, Stuart Lindsay, Simone Start (all senior lecturers at City University Law School's Bar Professional Training Course) and Brian Richardson (a practitioner atNexus Chambers at the London Bar, who focuses on racial equality and criminal defence cases).

The workshop is a unique and critically important practical skills programme that supplies South African public interest legal practitioners with essential courtroom skills to enable them to provide better legal representation to the very poor and vulnerable people they work with accross a wide range of different human rights work. In this way, SERI, the Bertha Foundation and City, University of London hope to contribute to the development and strengthening of well-trained, professional advocates working on public interest law.

SERI would like to thank our partners, City, University of London and the Bertha Foundation, for their support, practical assistance and the development of a professional and challenging curriculum; and the trainers for their high-quality teaching. 

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