On behalf of the residents of Ingelosi House in Berea (52 men and women, who live together with their 32 children) SERI has filed heads of argument in an appeal against a decision of Victor J in the High Court. The appeal, which has been set down for a hearing in the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court for 10 May 2017, is against the decision of Victor J which granted an eviction against the residents.
Though some of the residents appeared in person in court before Victor J, they were not legally represented, nor were they aware of their rights in terms of the the Constitution and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE). The residents now argue that Victor J failed to follow mandatory legal requirements set out in legislation and comprehensively interpreted in judgments of the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court.
Victor J, the residents argue, was obliged to proactively determine their circumstances fully and conclude whether, in all of the relevant circumstances, granting an eviction order would be just and equitable. This she failed to do. These rights, the residents argue, are not capable of being waived by unrepresented litigants such as themselves. In addition, Victor J failed to ensure that the City of Johannesburg was joined in the proceedings, a mandatory requirement in the context of eviction proceedings which may well result in the homelessness of occupiers in the residents' position.
On appeal, the residents are therefore seeking an order setting aside Victor J's eviction order, joining the City of Johannesburg to the proceedings and remitting the matter to the court a quo for a determination of whether, in all the relevant circumstances, an eviction order in terms of PIE is just and equitable.
SERI represents the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in Mlungwana and Others v The State and Others.
The Special Rapporteur has been admitted as amicus curiae in an appeal against the judgment of a magistrates’ court. The matter arises as a result of a protest by members and supporters of the Social Justice Coalition outside the offices of the City of Cape Town (the City) Mayor, Ms Patricia de Lille, on 11 September 2013. Their grievances related to issues of poor sanitation for communities after lengthy engagements with the City.
The protesters, among other things, chained themselves to the railings at the City’s Civic Centre. Upon police intervention, 21 protesters were arrested and charged under section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993 (“Gatherings Act”) for unlawfully and intentionally convening a gathering without providing the relevant municipal authority with any notice that the gathering would take place. In the alternative to the main charge, the accused were charged under section 12(1)(e) of the Gatherings Act for unlawfully and intentionally attending a gathering without notice and the required permission from the relevant authority.
The matter is currently before the Western Cape High Court. The question before the court is whether section 12(1)(a) is unconstitutional for criminalizing conveners of an assembly of over 15 people if prior notice was not provided.
In written submissions, SERI provides 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). SERI argues that holding organisers criminally liable for not providing notification or an inadequate notification is a restriction to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which then must conform to international law, standards and principles.
SERI researcher Dennis Webster will take part in a GCRO symposium today on "taking the streets seriously". He will discuss SERI's work with informal street traders, and consider what mechanisms are available to local governments to secure basic rights at work and better access to the economy for street traders.
Dennis Webster has penned a piece in the Daily Maverick discussing why SERI's recently published Informal Trade in Johannesburg: Your Rights will be important for street traders in the city, and around the country. He suggests that the current climate in which street traders make a living does not support the development of a haelthy informal sector in which traders can meet the demand for their products and services:
"The informal economy and the people who work in it are crucial to the South African economy: 27% of people working in South Africa work informally, contributing 8% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) every year. In a broader context of rampant unemployment, these jobs, which are predominantly taken up by women, support thousands of families. Informal businesses also provide poor and working class families with cheap and readily available goods and services.
However those making a living in the informal sector do not receive the same protection from local governments as formal businesses do."
SERI's Edward Molopi recently participated in a panel discussion on SABC 1's Chatroom on the respective rights of landlords and tenants, where he emphasised the constitutional rights of people to access to adequate housing, and to not be evicted without a court order.