On Saturday, 6 October, SERI in collaboration with Izwi Domestic Workers’ Alliance hosted a workshop on domestic workers’ employment rights at Hillbrow Recreation Centre. The workshop was attended by 49 domestic workers from Johannesburg. SERI’s Kelebogile Khunou and Izwi’s Florence Sekolane welcomed the participants, sharing the purpose of the workshop which was learn about domestic worker employment rights and to explore together how domestic workers can support each other. Florence emphasised in her opening speech that, “Domestic workers need to work together to see change”.
Izwi Domestic Workers’ Alliance holds the view that domestic workers organising and supporting each other at the neighbourhood level will help to overcome the “atomised” and isolated nature of domestic work, and ultimately lead to more domestic workers realizing their employment rights. This perspective informed the workshop. Kelebogile began with a short talk about the history of domestic work in South Africa and took the participants through SERI’s domestic workers’ rights guide. The participants were then divided into five groups according to their neighbourhoods, for an exercise which entailed reading case studies on employment issues domestic workers experience, like unfair dismissal, unfair labour practices, and other employment standards, and using the guide to find out what the law says on those issues and how to resolve them. A representative from each neighbourhood then provided feedback about their group discussion in a plenary session.
The participants brought a lot of energy to the workshop, singing liberation songs and creating a spirit of solidarity. Izwi members from Alexandra performed a skit for the group depicting the unequal relationship between domestic workers and employers. Kelebogile and Izwi’s Maggie Mthombeni then jointly facilitated a question and answer session on employment rights. The workshop was closed by Izwi’s Amy Tekie, who shared with the group Izwi’s experience in assisting one of their members in a court case against her employer, to demonstrate that “Domestic workers can win cases”.
SERI also has a series of short, mobile-friendly information sheets on the rights of domestic workers in English and IsiZulu. These information sheets cover topics like wages, leave, the Unempolyment Insurance Fund (UIF), employment contracts, the end of employment and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
SALGA is leading a series of dialogues with municipalities to feed into a Position Paper on the Role of Local Government in the Informal Economy. Municipal local economic development, environmental health, policing, planning and tourism officials from metropolitan and secondary city municipalities in Gauteng gathered on 3 and 4 October to reflect on the challenges, opportunities, strategies, tools and priorities to foster enabling regulation and actions.
Oniah Nkosi, project coordinator of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) kick started the discussions: “The informal economy is an economy. In many countries, it is bigger than the formal economy. In all countries, it puts food on the table. It produces graduates. It can and must be decent work. Whether you are in local economic development, health, finance, planning or safety and security, ask yourself – what does my office do to achieve the NDP imperatives?”
SERI serves on the Steering Committee for the development of SALGA’s position paper.
SERI delighted to welcome two new members to the litigation team!
Anna-Marie de Vos is a practicing advocate with 33 years of experience. She obtained her LLB and LLM (Intellectual Property) at Unisa and joined the Pretoria Bar in 1985. She was granted silk in 1997 and appointed as a Judge on the North Gauteng High Court in 2001. She decided to return to practice in 2006. She specializes in Socio-Economic and land rights litigation and the Director of Legal Advice Office for Women, an NGO assisting women in the Garden Route area with legal issues. Anna-Marie was an applicant in the case of Du Toit v Minister of Welfare and Pupulation Development 2003 (2) SA 198 (CC) in which she and her life partner successfully challenged the Child Care Act 74 of 1983 that did not provide for permanent same-sex life partners to jointly adopt children.
Zeenat Sujee joined SERI in October 2018, she is an admitted attorney with an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand. Zeenat served her articles at the Legal Resources Centre and thereafter worked as an attorney practicing in the fields of Housing, Land, Gender and Environmental law. She thereafter joined the Centre for Applied Legal Studies and worked in the Basic Services Programme, where she has dealt with rights to access to adequate housing, water and sanitation. Most recently, Zeenat has consulted on civil and political rights research for the South African Human Rights Commission.
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’”.
Kelebogile 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”.
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.”