On 17 August 2017, SERI research fellow, Nthabiseng Nkhatau, made a presentation at the launch of the women's desk of the Tshwane Barekisi Forum, an organisation of informal traders in Tshwane. The presentation, which was based on Informal Trade in Johannesburg: Your Rights (SERI's user-friendly resource guide for informal traders in Johannesburg), provided information on the rights of informal traders and how traders can protect these rights and resist illegal harassment and clamp-downs on their businesses. Over 60 copies of the guide were distributed at the event.
The event was attended by approximately 80 participants, including local government officials, representatives of civil society organisations, repesentatives from the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and Tshwane Barekisi Form, and informal traders from in and around the Tshwane area.
The women's desk was developed as a platform within the Tshwane Barekisi Forum for women to share ideas and deliberate about the unique challenges they face as informal traders. The women's desk seeks to build a support network among female traders, develop collaborative strategies to grow their businesses, and amplify the voices of female traders.
Today marks five years since the police brutally shot and killed 37 striking mine workers, who were protesting for better wages in Marikana. However, very little has changed for the widows and families of the mine workers.
Five years after the massacre, the state is yet to take responsibility for its role in the killings. There has been no official state apology to the families who lost their loved ones, something that has, and continues to be, demanded by the families. The state has also failed to hold the police officers who shot the miners and those who ordered them to do so accountable, with not a single police officer appearing in court to face charges associated with deaths of mineworkers.
It's time for #JusticeForMarikana.
On 8 August 2017, the international news website, Al Jazeera, published an opinion piece written by the Local Government Action (LGA)'s national coordinator, Koketso Moeti. The op-ed argues that tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire in London and the Cape York fire in Johannesburg can be avoided if cities rethink their approach to urban housing.
Moeti quotes research published by SERI in 2013 to show that cities like Johannesburg are failing to provide affordable housing solutions to low-income residents. She writes:
"...Across the world's cities, many residents live in substandard conditions, mostly out of desperation. For too long local governments across many cities have allowed only market forces to dictate the kind of development that is taking place. All too often that is at the expense of low-income residents who are either pushed out of the city or forced to live in unsafe conditions. City authorities are failing to prioritise safe, affordable accommodation.
"Research (pdf) into the supply of and demand for low-income accommodation in Johannesburg's inner city found that both availability and affordability were major problems for almost half of these residents, who earn less than $245 [R3 200] per month. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa found a household would have to earn about $440 [R7 500] per month to afford the cheapest formal rental available from the private sector."
Between 31 July and 4 August 2017, SERI appeared in the Durban High Court on behalf of Nkosinathi Mngomezulu, a resident of Cato Crest informal settlement in Durban, in a damages claim against the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality and the Minister of Safety and Security. Mngomezulu is claiming damages for the physical injuries he sustained when a security officer in the municipality's land invasion unit shot him in the stomach four times, as well as for his unlawful attest and detention on charges of assault and attempted murder.
On 21 September 2013, the municipality's land invasion unit illegally demolished Mngomezulu and various other Cato Crest residents' shacks, in violation of a series of court orders handed down in the preceding months that restrained the municipality from evicting any person or demolishing any shack at Cato Crest informal settlement (see the Mzimela case). While physically resisting this demolition, Mngomezulu was shot four times by a security officer in the municipality's land invasion unit. Then, after recovering for more than three months in hospital, Mngomezulu was arrested and detained initially on charges of assault and later on charges of atttempted murder. It is on the basis of this unlawful attack and the subsequent unlawful arrest and detention that Mngomezulu, assisted by Abahlali baseMjondolo, claims damages.
SERI's candidate attorney, Lwazi Mtshiyo, and SERI's litigation intern, Keaton Allen-Gessesse, recently contributed a blogpost to the Bertha Foundation's blog, Bertha Blog. The post deals with the challenges posed by state-run urban regeneration initiatives and gentrification in Johannesburg, and how SERI uses film as a powerful tool to document the struggles of poor and marginsalised people resisting gentrification.
In the blogpost Mtshiyo and Allen-Gessesse write that: "...[t]he challenges faced by the poor cannot be solved if the City [of Johannesburg] only responds to lawsuits and individual eviction cases. Gentrification’s detrimental consequences require broader, well-coordinated policies by the state – particularly providing guaranteed affordable housing. Until this happens, residents on the brink of homelessness and human rights lawyers will continue to strategically use the law to the keep a roof over their heads."