A group of Johannesburg-based domestic workers participated in a workshop hosted by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) on Saturday, 27 January 2018 in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The workshop also brought together a number of civil society groups, union representatives and government officials, including Ronald Wesso of the Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), members of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) and two employers. The workshop provided domestic workers with the opportunity to discuss their working conditions and the challenges they face as one of the most vulnerable groups in South African society, and reflect on the rights and protections domestic workers have under South African law.
The workshop also offered SERI the opportunity to present its user-friendly draft resource guide on the rights and legal protections of domestic workers to the group and obtain invaluable feedback. The feedback from the workshop will be incorporated into the resourceguide, which will be published later this year.
The workshop was facilitated by SERI researcher, Kelebogile Khunou.
On 24 January 2018, the Western Cape High Court declared section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gathering Act 205 of 1993 (the Gatherings Act), the primary piece of legislation that governs protests in South Africa, unconstitutional. Section 12(1)(a) made it a criminal offence to intentionally convene a gathering without notifying the municipality that the gathering would take place. In declaring this provision unconstitutional, judge Thandazwa Ndita said that a criminal sanction was "disproportionate to the offence" as it may result in people "carry[ing] with them the stigma" of a criminal conviction. Instead, judge Ndita suggested that civil liability may be a more appropriate penalty for failing to notify the municipality of an intended protest.
The case was brought to court by a small group of community-based activists and members of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) who participated in a peaceful protest outside the Mayor of the City of Cape Town’s offices in Cape Town on 11 September 2013. During the protest, the protestors chained themselves to the railings of the City’s civic centre. Twenty one protesters were arrested and charged under section 12(1)(a) for unlawfully and intentionally convening a gathering without notifying the municipality that the gathering would take place. During the criminal proceedings that followed in the Magistrates’ Court, the accused protestors were held to have convened the protest and found guilty of the charges laid against them. The protestors appealed to the Western Cape High Court, where they asked the court to declare section 12(1)(a) unconstitutional. The protestors argued that criminalising the conveners of a protest simply because they did not notify the relevant authorities that they intended to protest unjustifiably infringed their constitutional right to peacefully assemble.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, represented by SERI, was admitted as amicus curiae in the matter. On 14 and 15 June 2017, SERI made oral submissions on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. SERI’s submission was based on an international law perspective and urges the court to have regard to international law standards and principles when considering the constitutionality of section 12(1)(a) of the Gatherings Act. SERI argues that holding organisers criminally liable for failing to notify authorities about a protest was a restriction of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
On 18 January 2018, Ground Up reported on a recent ground-breaking judgment in the North Gauteng High Court against Ekurhuleni municipality for the municipality's 17-year delay in building state-subsidised houses for 133 residents of the Winnie Mandela informal settlement near Tembisa. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) represented the residents of Winnie Mandela informal settlement in the case.
In the judgment, handed down on 15 December 2017, judge Mmonoa Teffo found that Ekurhuleni had failed to provide the residents with houses that were constructed with their government-approved housing subsidies. The houses were instead occupied by other, unknown people, often as a result of corruption in the housing allocation process, which Ekurhuleni controls. This, the court found, breached the residents’ constitutional and statutory housing rights.
Ground Up hails the case as a significant victory for residents of informal settlements whose housing subsidy applications have been approved. It states that "[t]he judgment is a timely reminder that the state cannot drag its feet to provide such people with homes" and that the "failure to provide a reasonable explanation for misallocation of houses will not be tolerated by the courts".
SERI is delighted to welcome Amanda Duma to our team as a candidate attorney. Amanda holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and is currently completing her Master of Laws (LLM) with the same institution.
She has an interest in human rights law. Her passion lies in protecting the rights of indigent members of the South African society and using the law as a tool to bring about social change. We look forward to her contribution to our work.
Three new working papers on the rights to housing, water and sanitation, commissioned by the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), have recently been published. The papers are part of a series of papers that aim to examine how far the realisation of socio-economic rights (and related enabling rights) have advanced in South Africa since the advent of democracy.
The papers on the rights to housing, water and sanitation each provide a human rights analysis of the right in question in the South African context by reviewing the legal, policy and functional frameworks governing the right, and undertaking a rights-based fault-line analysis of systemic problems with the realisation of the right. The papers have been published individually and collectively in a publication entitled, Socio-Economic Rights: Progressive Realisation?
The papers were researched and written by various SERI staff members, including Jackie Dugard (chairperson of SERI’s Board of Directors and former SERI researcher), Michael Clark (SERI research associate), Kate Tissington (former SERI researcher) and Stuart Wilson (SERI executive director).