ISAR ethekwini picOn Monday, 21 October 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) in partnership with Abahlali BaseMjondolo hosted the eThekwini launch of four research publications on informal settlements in South Africa. The reports emanate from SERI’s research series entitled “Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency”.

The three site-based research reports are on Siyanda informal settlement in KwaMashu (eThekwini Municipality) which was produced in partnership with Abahlali BaseMjondolo and will be foregrounded in this launch; Ratanang informal settlement in Klerksdorp (City of Matlosana); Marikana informal settlement in Philippi (City of Cape Town); and a fourth Synthesis Report that pulls together findings in each of the themes (tenure security and land use management; political space; access to basic services and economic life) across the three sites. 

Informal settlements have been part of the South African urban landscape for decades. The Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) provides a strong policy framework for improving the lives of informal settlement residents. There are however few if any examples where municipalities have upgraded informal settlements in keeping with the policy. This research provides qualitative, evidence-based insights to assist government officials, practitioners, planners and community members to strengthen the implementation of in-situ upgrading.

According to Stuart Wilson, executive director of SERI: “The persistence of informal settlements in South Africa is a painful reminder of the state’s failure and the market’s inability to provide poor households with affordable accommodation options in well-located areas. These reports provide a deep insight to informal settlements in South Africa. We hope that these reports will assist in developing a better approach towards informal settlement upgrading in South Africa.”

The launch took place at the Diakonia Centre, 20 Diakonia Ave, Durban Central, Durban­­­­­. 

Read the full press statement here.


Long CO RightToWorkOn 9 October 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), alongside the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), hosted a workshop on the Right to Work in Johannesburg. The event was attended by approximately 40 members of precarious worker organisations, local and national government officials, practitioners, academics and civil society organisations. 

In October 2018, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) issued its Concluding Observations to the Government of South Africa’s first report to the Committee since it ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICECSR) in 2015. The purpose of the workshop was to provide an orientation on the right to decent work and to the Committee’s Concluding Observations and to discuss how the recommendations can be implemented and used to further our different advocacy strategies of the various stakeholder groups present.

The workshop began with a presentation by the ICJ’s Tim Fish Hodgson on the Committee’s Concluding Observations on the rights to work and to an adequate standard of living. He highlighted the important role of international law as a value add to national labour legislation, where the express right to work is absent. University of Cape Town’s Jan Theron followed with a presentation on the challenges in translating these international recommendations into reality, highlighting that the current legislative framework covers and protects full-time employees in standard jobs while workers in non-standard jobs have partial protections and that those in the informal economy have even fewer protections and are usually unable to exercise fundamental worker rights such as the right to collective bargaining.

The session which followed consisted of three panel discussions. In the first panel, Steven Leeu of African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) spoke about their struggle for recognition as workers and in terms of their contribution to the recycling industry in the country. In the second panel, members of Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance spoke about their efforts organising domestic workers at the neighbourhood level and their fight as part of the One Wage Campaign for farmworkers, domestic workers and EPWP employees to be included in the R20 per hour minimum wage. In the last panel, Charles Parkerson from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) spoke about their forthcoming informal economy position paper, which aims to guide South Africa’s 257 municipalities’ regulation and support of the informal economy. Brian Phaaloh of South African Informal Trader Forum (SAITF), Jane Barrett from Women in Informal  Employment: Globalizing and Organising (WIEGO), Lulama Mali from Johannesburg Informal Trader Platform (JITP), Kelebogile Khunou from SERI and Caroline Skinner from WIEGO participated as discussants.

Participants of the workshop reached consensus on the following points, which were summarised at the close of the workshop:

  • The importance of maintaining solidarity between organised labour and precarious workers in achieving the right to work.
  • The importance of increasing awareness around the right the work, the importance of different stakeholders in reaching strategic agreement on how to utilise ICESCR and the Concluding Observations for advocacy on the right to work and the effective implementation of the CESCR recommendations and;
  • The need to consider the contributions strategic litigation can make in realising the right to work.

RightToWork Workshop


  • Download the UNCESCR's Concluding Observations on the Right to Work here.
  • Download a summary of the UNCESCR's Concluding Observations on the Right to Work here.
  • Learn more about a living wage here

Advocacy Training 1Between 9 and 12 September 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) partnered with City University of London and the Bertha Foundation to host an advocacy workshop in Johannesburg. The workshop was attended by 24 delegates from a range of public interest legal services organisations, including Legal Aid South Africa, SERI, Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), the Right2Know Campaign, and Ndifuna Ukwazi. A number of advocates from the Johannesburg Bar also attended the workshop. 

The four-day workshop was aimed at equipping candidate attorneys, attorneys, and junior advocates working in public interest legal services organisations with practical experience in litigation and advocacy, with a particular focus on witness handling (leading evidence and cross-examining witnesses), trial skills and bail proceedings. The workshop began with two days of lectures, practical demonstrations and practice sessions focusing on key skills development. On the final day, the trainees are placed into teams and prepare overnight for a fully argued mock trial.

The workshop is a unique and critically important practical skills programme that supplies South African public interest legal practitioners with essential courtroom skills to enable them to provide better legal representation to the very poor and vulnerable people they work with across a wide range of different human rights work. In this way, SERI, the Bertha Foundation and City, University of London hope to contribute to the development and strengthening of well-trained, professional advocates working on public interest law.

SERI would like to thank our partners, City, University of London and the Bertha Foundation, for their support, practical assistance and the development of a professional and challenging curriculum; and the trainers for their high-quality teaching.

Learn more about this training in this short documentary, Advocates for Change, the film showcases the critical role played by human rights lawyers in South Africa and the importance of training highly skilled public interest lawyers to keep the promise of our constitutional democracy. 

The film was produced by Ilya Melnikov, a film student at City University, London; and directed by Nikki Walsh, a senior lecturer at City University, London.

  • Watch the short documentary here

Advocacy Training 2

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) in partnership with Abahlali BaseMjondolo invites you to the eThekwini Launch of: 

Informal Settlement: Norms, Practices and Agency 


Siyanda ISAR screenshot

SERI has produced three-site based research reports: “Left Behind: Siyanda Informal Settlementwhich was produced in partnership with Abahlali BaseMjondolo and will be foregrounded in this launch, “Our Place to Belong: Marikana Informal Settlement” and “The Promised Land: Ratanang Informal Settlement”. 

Siyanda is located in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal, Marikana in Cape Town, Western Cape and Ratanang in Klerksdorp, North West province. A fourth report, “Here to Stay”, synthesises and compares findings across the three sites. 

The launch will consist of a stakeholder engagement, which will centre on the presentation of research findings and an exploration of policy implications for the upgrading of informal settlements. 

When: Monday, 21 October 2019, 10:30 – 13:30. 

Where: Diakonia Centre, 20 Diakonia Ave, Durban Central, Durban 

RSVP: Edward Molopi (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) / 011 356 5885 by 15 October 2019

  • Download the invite here



This is SERI's second newsletter of 2019. In it we present a few highlights from our work since June 2019. Since its inception, SERI has undertaken over 500 litigious matters on behalf of hundreds of thousands of people and provided non-litigious support to many more. SERI currently has 97 active cases through which we assist communities to resist evictions and secure basic services in their homes in informal settlements and inner city buildings; to safeguard their right to participation; hold duty bearers to account and defend their right to work. 

We have also furthered our research and advocacy work, and participated in a number of exciting civil society and government engagements. Among these, we have, in partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), engaged the MMC of Economic Development and officials from the City of Johannesburg on constitutional and case law implications for the regulation of informal traders, including foreign nationals. We co-hosted a seminar with the South African Cities Network (SACN) on the exclusionary consequences of municipal revenue incentives. We presented at an international conference in Nairobi, Kenya on the management of public assemblies and commemorated the seventh anniversary of the Marikana massacre. We furthered our advocacy work on urban land reform by contributing to the final report by the Expert Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture. 

We launched four new research reports on Informal Settlements in South Africa and released a mini-documentary and policy brief on sanitation for women with disabilities living in informal settlements. 

  • Download the newsletter here


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