On 24 April 2019, SERI researcher, Kelebogile Khunou, participated in the launch of the South African Cities Network's People’s Guide to their State of the City Finances report. Kelebogile presented on a panel about how urban finances impact the communities with which SERI works. The People’s Guide is a tool aimed at sharing information on how the City of Johannesburg spends money on services and approaches undoing the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.
Kelebogile was joined on the panel by Frederick Kusambiza-Kiingi from Planact and Mthandazo Ndlovu from Oxfam South Africa. The panel was chaired by Danga Mughogho from the South African Cities Network. In her presentation, Kelebogile discussed the effects of a lack of access to basic services on the ability of residents and small business owners in informal settlements to grow their businesses and make a sustainable living. She also discussed the impact of the City of Johannesburg’s 2017 decision to withdraw the provision of free basic water on poor people. She argued that the City’s adoption of indigent registers is a regressive step in the realisation of sufficient access to water and that registers underrepresent the number of indigent people in the city and therefore the number of people who cannot afford to pay for water.
On 23 April 2019, SERI, filed an application for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court (CC) against a Pretoria High Court judgment issued against Rachel Zwane, a 61 year old woman, who purchased her house with the assistance of a mortage bond in 2001 but 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 forcibly evicted from her home in May 2012. Left on the street by her house and having nowhere to go, she, her two children, and four grandchildren, re-occupied the home.
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, effectively criminalising her occupation of her own home. SERI, on behalf of Zwane, appealed her conviction in the Pretoria High Court which dismissed her appeal against the conviction and the sentence.
This application follows the denial of a special application for leave to appeal filed with the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on 23 December 2018. In that appeal, SERI argued that the High Court 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. On 29 March 2019, the SCA refused that application.
SERI maintains that even though an unlawful occupier has no common law right to live in his or her home, that does not render such occupation a criminal offence. In the current appeal, SERI is arguing that Zwane’s application raises three constitutional issues, namely whether unlawful occupation of a home in terms of section 1 of the PIE Act also amounts to the criminal offence of trespass under section 1 (1) of the Trespass Act. Further, in the event that it is decided that an unlawful occupier under PIE can be prosecuted under the Trespass Act, the question arises as to whether section 1 (1) of the Trespass Act is constitutionally valid, to the extent that it criminalises the unlawful occupation of a home. Lastly, whether there are constitutional limitations on the sentence that may be imposed following a conviction on the offence of trespass in one’s own home as a sentence that suspends a fine or imprisonment on condition that a trespass is not again committed within a specified period, or on condition that the convicted person leaves his or her home, will amount, in substance, to an eviction order.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institue of South Africa (SERI) is looking to appoint a director of litigation, senior attorney/attorney and candidate attorneys to join the SERI Law Clinic. All positions are based at SERI's offices in Braamfontein in Johannesburg.
The SERI Law Clinic has a first-rate human rights practice, which encompasses constitutional and administrative law, criminal defence, defamation, labour law, property law, contract law (insofar as it involves consumer protection) and actions against the police and other delictual claims. SERI concentrates its work in South Africa’s townships, informal settlements and other poor and marginalised communities. SERI’s practitioners appear regularly at all levels of the court system, up to and including the Constitutional Court. SERI has an enviable track record in obtaining and enforcing ground-breaking judgments. You can find out more about SERI on www.seri-sa.org and www.fightingforaliving.org.
Director of Litigation
Reporting to the Executive Director, the Director of Litigation will be responsible for shaping and implementing SERI’s litigation strategy across its three themes of work: “Securing a Home”, “Making a Living” and “Expanding Political Space”. The successful candidate will lead a team of attorneys who provide advice and representation to social movements, communities and individuals seeking to enforce their socio-economic rights in a variety of contexts. He or she will also be expected to develop SERI's profile and outreach with communities, media, the government and donors.
We’re looking for someone with the following qualifications, skills and experience -
The appointment will take effect on 1 October 2019.
Senior Attorney/ Attorney
Reporting to the Director of Litigation, the Attorney will be expected to develop a litigation practice across a wide range of work, encompassing trial, motion and appeal work, including criminal, constitutional, administrative, labour, property and delictual matters. The Senior Attorney will, in addition, be expected to mentor, train and act as principal to one or more of SERI’s candidate attorneys, to deputise for the Director of Litigation where necessary, and to share with the Director of Litigation the responsibility of managing SERI’s caseload and its team of attorneys and candidate attorneys.
The requirements for the position are as follows -
Additional Requirements for Appointment as a Senior Attorney
Candidate Attorney (2)
The SERI Law Clinic wishes to fill up to two vacancies for candidate attorneys (CAs).
These vacancies will arise on or after 1 January 2020.
The requirements for the positions are as follows -
The closing date for applications is Friday 28 June 2019. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.
SERI is committed to transformation. Black South Africans and women are strongly encouraged to apply.
On Wednesday, 10 April 2019, SERI together with the Inner City Federation (ICF) participated in a discussion on the Right to the City in South Africa with second year anthropology students from the University of the Witwatersrand.
In the discussion, SERI’s Edward Molopi and the ICF’s Siyabonga Mahlangu, drew on the two organisations’ work of challenging the exclusion of poor and marginalised communities in the inner city of Johannesburg and provided the students with an introduction to the work of the two organisations.
SERI’s latest community practice note, Inner City Federation: Fighting for Decent Housing in Inner-City Johannesburg, which examines the strategies and tactics used by poor inner-city residents to resist evictions, harassment and displacement was the required reading for the class and forms part of the course curriculum for the second year anthropology class. The course lecturer, Dr. Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, began with providing context on the Right to the City and the struggle for marginalised communities to access dignified housing in the city of Johannesburg. Wilhelm-Solomon further highlighted the difficult living conditions endured by the majority of impoverished communities within the inner city of Johannesburg and the subsequent legal battles they have undergone in order to receive dignified housing.
Molopi and Mahlangu’s input outlined the collective grievances of occupiers in the inner city against the City of Johannesburg which include the City's failure to provide residents with adequate access to basic services. Mahlangu highlighted the harassment endured by occupiers in the inner city during building raids conducted at the City’s instruction, under the guise of curbing criminal activities and removing undocumented migrants from inner city buildings. Molopi further engaged students on housing rights, state obligations to provide housing and the possibilities of expropriation as a tool to alleviate housing challenges in the city.
On Tuesday, 9 April 2019, SERI litigation fellow Khululiwe Bhengu and researcher Kelebogile Khunou attended the Department of Environmental Affairs’ National Waste Picker Integration Workshop in Pretoria. The workshop was attended by approximately 100 municipal officials, waste pickers, private sector stakeholders and members of civil society. The purpose of the workshop was to increase knowledge about waste pickers and waste picker integration and share the draft National Guidelines on Waste Picker Integration.
The workshop began with speakers from the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) and the African Reclaimers’ Organisation (ARO), who provided insight into the contribution of waste pickers to South Africa’s waste management and recycling system and highlighted the importance of continued engagement between all stakeholders in the implementation of waste picker integration.
The workshop participants then broke up into groups and discussed specific actions related to implementing waste picker integration like registration of waste pickers in the City of Johannesburg, the process of integration at landfill sites and transformation of the waste management system.