On 24 November to 27 November 2020, the Western Cape High Court will hear arguments in a matter between the South Africa Human Rights Commission v The City of Cape Town. The matter arises from the disturbing events of 1 July 2020 when armed Metro police, members of the City Anti-Land Invasion Unit accompanied by private contractors acting on the instruction of the City, arrived at the Ethembeni informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. They proceeded to Mr. Bulelani Qolani’s shack and dragged him out, naked and in full view of surrounding residents. The City officials proceeded to demolish his shack. None of this was authorised by a court order.

SERI represents Abahlali baseMjondolo who are amicus curiae in the case because of their extensive experience with illegal actions performed by ALIU in Durban. Abahlali seeks to show the court the ALIU's track record in terms of its conduct and to demonstrate how its conduct in Cape Town is not meaningfully different that of the anti-land invasion units in eThekwini and Johannesburg.

The SAHRC brought a two-part application against the unlawful eviction and demolition. Part A seeks to interdict the City of Cape Town from demolishing structures without a court order. Part B seeks to review and set aside the conduct of the ALIU or the decision by the City to instruct them to demolish structures without court orders. It also seeks an order declaring the existence of the ALIU to be unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid.

Abahlali submits that the City is not is entitled to resort to the common law remedy of counter-spoliation which it uses to summarily demolish and remove structures from its land that it decides are not “occupied” as “homes”. Abahlali also submits that the routine and inflexible use of the counter-spoliation remedy is, in any event, at odds with the City’s duty, under section 26 (2) of the Constitution, to act reasonably to progressively give effect to the rights of poor and homeless people to access adequate housing. Abahlali submits that this "entails a duty to engage new occupants of its land openly and compassionately in an effort to 'resolve the difficulty on a case-by-case basis after an investigation of their circumstances'".

The matter was set for hearing on the 6th and 7th of October but was postponed on account of AfriForum joining in the application as amicus and filing their papers late.

Read more about the case here.

Raids Presser Con CourtToday the Constitutional Court will hear the matter of The Residents of Industry House and Others v The Minister of Police and Others in which residents of 11 buildings in inner-city Johannesburg successfully challenged, in the High Court, the lawfulness and constitutionality of over 20 police raids of their homes. 

During the raids, which were jointly conducted by the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), the Department of Home Affairs and the City of Johannesburg, officials forced the residents out of the buildings and onto the streets, sometimes in their nightdresses, where they were searched, finger-printed and commanded to produce copies of their identity documents, passports or asylum seekers’ permits. Anyone who was unable to produce their identity document was detained. Some South African citizens who could not produce their identity documents were arrested because, according to one official, they “looked too dark” to be South African. The majority of those that were arrested were never charged. They were released after a day or two at most.

In June 2020, the full bench of the High Court in Johannesburg delivered a judgment declaring section 13 (7) (c) of the South African Police Services Act 68 of 1995 (the SAPS Act) constitutionally invalid.  The full bench found that the former Provincial Commissioner failed to apply her mind to the template-based applications for the authorisations which led to the warrantless raids of the applicants’ homes and simply rubber stamped the applications brought to her. The raids in the residents’ homes were “carried out in a manner that was cruel, humiliating, degrading and invasive” and “demonstrate an egregious abuse of, and infringement of the residents’ constitutional rights to privacy and dignity”, the court held. 

The residents have now approached the Constitutional Court to confirm the High Court order declaring section 13 (7) (c) of the SAPS Act constitutionally invalid and to appeal against the High Court judgment insofar as it declined to declare sections 13 (7) (a) and (b) of the SAPS Act unconstitutional. They also seek damages for the breach of their constitutional rights to privacy and dignity caused by the unlawful raids to which they were subjected. The residents are further seeking to interdict and restrain the police from searching their homes without an appropriate court order or warrant issued by a Magistrate or a Judge.

Khululiwe Bhengu, SERI attorney representing the residents, said “The confirmation and appeal application to the Constitutional Court is important to ensure the vindication of the residents’ rights to dignity and privacy and to emphasise that as much as the sanctity of a person’s home is important, the right to privacy does not end at a person’s door step.”  

  • Read more about the case and find all the papers here.
  • Download the full statement here.

Today the Constitutional Court handed down a ground-breaking judgment on the Mahlangu v Minister of Labour matter, declaring the constitutional invalidity of section 1(xix)(v) of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA), previously known as Workmen’s Compensation, which excluded domestic workers employed in private households from the definition of "employee", precluding them from claiming from the Compensation Fund for work-related injuries, illnesses or death. The Court pointed out the stark contrast as “all other employees are protected by COIDA”. Significantly, the Court ruled that the order of constitutional invalidity is to have immediate and retrospective effect from 27 April 1994. 

The order has significant implications for the domestic workers in South Africa.  Not only can domestic workers and dependants who experience work-related injuries, diseases and death now claim from the Compensation Fund, those domestic workers and dependants who have experienced work-related injuries, diseases or death as far back as 27 April 1994 are also able to submit their claims. 

This order follows an almost decade long struggle for justice after the death of first applicant Sylvia Mahlangu’s mother, Maria Mahlangu. Maria drowned in her employers’ home in March 2012 after she slipped from a ladder and fell into the pool while washing the top windows outside a bedroom. SERI, representing Sylvia and second applicant South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU), successfully challenged the constitutionality of Section 1(xix)(v) of COIDA in the North Gauteng High Court in 2019. 

The order also has significant implications for employers of domestic workers. Under terms prescribed by the Department of Employment and Labour, employers will, from a specified date, have to contribute a monthly amount to the Compensation Fund for their domestic employees. In the event of injuries, diseases or death arising out of and in the course of employment, statutory benefits will be paid from the Fund to employees, or to dependents of deceased employees. Employers must register their employees as they will also be protected against civil claims as all employees covered by COIDA are prevented from suing their employers for damages in terms of common law. 

Pinky Mashiane, president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa who has supported the Mahlangu case alongside other allies from the beginning, stated the following about today’s victory, 

“I knew it from the start that the exclusion of domestic workers from COIDA was unconstitutional, that is why I persisted with this case and never lost hope. This is justice which has been denied domestic workers for years. It was long overdue. Now domestic workers who have been bitten by dogs, hurt themselves from falling from step ladders, and all workers who have been injured can claim for Compensation as far back as 27 April 1994. We at United Domestic Workers of South Africa are looking forward to engaging the Department of Employment and Labour about the next steps.”

It is our hope that this important judgment is a turning point in the enforcement of domestic worker laws and policies in South Africa. To further the gains made this far we encourage the Department of Employment and Labour to: 

  • Promote the recognition of domestic work as real work; the value of domestic work to the South African economy and to raise public awareness of domestic workers rights;
  • Apply the same minimum wage across all sectors including domestic and farm workers and Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) employees, and for the minimum wage to be regularly adjusted to the cost of living so as to ensure an adequate standard of living for workers and their families; 
  • Strengthen their enforcement mechanisms in the domestic work sector by securing a sufficient number of qualified labour inspectors; ensuring that their compliance orders are respected and enforced; and by allowing labour inspectors to carry out unannounced labour inspections in domestic settings without notice; 
  • Ensure that domestic workers have access to effective complaint mechanisms, including by ensuring that all officials of the Department of Employment and Labour and the CCMA respond professionally to domestic workers reports of mistreatment and follow due process to ensure that employers who are not meeting labour regulations are held accountable. 

Download the judgment and read more about the case here.

Contact details:  

  • Thulani Nkosi, SERI attorney: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 076 117 3484.
  • Kelebogile Aplane, SERI candidate attorney: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 083 503 4477.
  • Eunice Dhladhla, SADSAWU assistant secretary general: 082 344 0300.

Pinky Mashiane, United Domestic Workers of South Africa (UDWOSA) president: 073 291 2244.

  • Kelebogile Khunou, SERI researcher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 079 135 4002.

Today, SERI is launching the last of four cases in the Claiming Water Rights in South Africa research series, "Maluti-a-Phofung - a community doing it for themselves". The research project was launched in a Water Rights Webinar Series held in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. The research forms part of the global #ClaimYourWaterRights campaign initiated by End Water Poverty

uMgungundlovu Case Study COVERThe case study, “Maluti-a-Phofung – a community doing it for themselves” documents the efforts of an unusual coalition of residents and community leaders – known as the Harrismith Water Heroes - who, in the face of continued poor service delivery, took it upon themselves to fix their town’s water infrastructure, largely at their own cost.

The case study, “Maluti-a-Phofung – a community doing it for themselves” documents the efforts of an unusual coalition of residents and community leaders – known as the Harrismith Water Heroes - who, in the face of continued poor service delivery, took it upon themselves to fix their town’s water infrastructure, largely at their own cost.

The Harrismith Water Heroes formed following a water outage that lasted for at least 40 days in July 2018. Local farmers had stepped in and supplied water, but many businesses closed. Petrus Claasen van Eeden (a local farmer) and Sam Twala (a community leader from Intabazwe) went to the Nuwejaarspruit Pump Station to investigate the nature of the problem and this chance encounter sparked an unlikely coalition.

The provision of basic services in Intabazwe, Harrismith and surrounds has deteriorated steadily over the past decade, fuelled by political in-fighting, crippling debt and the collapse of governance and administration within Maluti municipality. Difficulties around access to water in Maluti-a-Phofung date back to the early 2000s. Residents of Intabazwe organised two major protests in 2004 and 2009, blocking the N3 in response to municipal failure to provide water services. By 2016, water services were increasingly difficult to access.

The Maluti-a-Phofung municipality is by no means unique, and increasing numbers of residents in rural areas, informal settlements and small towns across the country rely on self-provisioned water supply as municipal services fall into deeper disarray. A growing number of municipalities are being placed under administration because they are dysfunctional. 

Water report UmgunundlovuMarikanaMakana SQUARE COVERS

On 6 October 2020, SERI launched the synthesis report entitled “Claiming water rights in South Africa” as well as the case study of the Marikana informal settlement entitled “Residents of Marikana informal settlement use expropriation as a tool” which is the second of four case studies. On 20 October 2020, SERI launched “Farm dwellers fight for access to water in uMgungundlovu district municipality” and on 3 November 2020, SERI launched the third report in the series entitled "Makana local municipality – provincial intervention in a municipal crisis".



The publications are:

  • Case study 2: Residents of Marikana informal settlement use expropriation as a tool (launched on 6 October). This is a seminal case because it illustrates how expropriation in terms of the Housing Act can be utilised as a tool to widen access to urban land for poor people and to provide them with services where they already live. The experiences of the residents of Marikana also illustrate how important it is to tackle the struggle for tenure security, services and ultimately a dignified life, using a range of mutually reinforcing strategies including community organisation, engagement, protest, self-supply and litigation.
  • Case study 4: Maluti-a-Phofung - a community doing it for themselves (launched on 17 November 2020). The last case study reflects on the efforts of an unusual coalition of residents and community leaders in Maluti-a-Phofung – known as the Harrismith Water Heroes – who, in the face of continued poor service delivery by local government took it upon themselves to fix their town’s water infrastructure.  

Marikana Families Truth revealedOn 10 to 12 November 2020, Former North West Deputy Police Commissioner, Major General William Mpembe, Brigadier Gideon van Zyl, Colonel Dingaan Madoda and Lieutenant Colonel Oupa Pule presented evidence in their defence at the North West High Court on charges relating to the death of Motisaoitsile Van Wyk Sagalala, one of the Marikana striking miners. The four police officers are charged with defeating the ends of justice, contravening Section (29)(1) of the IPID Act for failure to report a death in police custody to IPID and contravening Section 6(2) of the Commission Act for lying to the Commission under oath.

Mr Sagalala was killed by the police on 16 August 2012. The SAPS informed the Marikana Commission of Inquiry that Mr Sagalala had died at the hospital, however, the IPID investigation found that Mr Sagalala had, in fact, died inside the police truck at the detention centre. The investigation revealed a cover-up to support the claim that Mr Sagalala died at the Andrew Saffy Hospital. The North West High Court heard undisputed testimony that Mr Sagalala was handcuffed despite his injuries and died on the way to a temporary detention centre. The circumstances of Mr Sagalala’s death show the cruelty and brutality suffered by the miners at the hands of the police on 16 August 2012.

The police have had many opportunities to take responsibility for their actions in Marikana but have instead elected to lie, omit vital information and avoid any accountability. This behaviour demonstrates the police’s unwillingness to right the wrongs of this massacre. 

The families of the slain miners recognise the efforts of the NPA and IPID and see the prosecutions of those involved in the massacre as an opportunity for the full circumstances leading to the deaths of their loved ones to be revealed.  

Contact details:

  • Nomzamo Zondo, SERI’s Executive Director: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 071 301 9676.
  • Asenati Tukela, SERI Candidate Attorney: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 078 684 7658.

Read the full statement here.

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