During his reply to the state of the nation address debate in Parliament on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the state was committed to compensating the families of the striking miners who were killed by police on 13 and 16 August 2012 during the Marikana massacre. In August 2012, these workers, with thousands of others, were on strike demanding a living wage when they were killed after police opened fire on them.
Talking from the podium, Ramaphosa said: “We must be prepared‚ as government‚ that where we have failed our people‚ where we have made mistakes‚ we will take steps to correct those mistakes. One of such was the Marikana tragedy which stands out as the darkest moment in the life our young democracy.” He promised that he was personally “determined to play whatever role [he could] in the process of healing and atonement for what happened at Marikana.”
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), that represents the 36 families of the striking miners who were killed at Marikana (along with the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and the Wits Law Clinic), welcomes Ramaphosa’s comments and hopes that his promises will lead to action on the part of the state.
If the state is serious about atoning for the Marikana massacre, the families of those killed at Marikana have indicated that a meaningful response will include:
If the state takes these steps it will bring much needed closure to the families who feel that they have been abandoned by the South African government.
Ahead of Minister Malusi Gigaba's budget speech on 21 February 2018, a broad collective of socio-economic rights organisations have developed an example of what South Africa's national budget could look like if it takes the needs and concerns of ordinary South Africans seriously. SERI contributed to this alternative, people-centred budget.
Minister Gigaba’s budget speech should allocate funds in such a way as to ensure that South Africa's chronic poverty and inequality are alleviated, and that effect is given to the rights of the most vulnerable. It is in this light that South African civil society has collaborated to draft an alternative "Human Rights Budget" for 2018, which sets out what a budget that takes the rights of ordinary people seriously would look like. The Human Rights Budget for 2018 draws on South Africa's existing trends in budgeting and makes strong recommendations about where funds should be allocated in order to give effect to the fundamental human rights enshrined in the South African Constitution.
The civil society organisations that contributed to the human rights budget include SERI, Equal Education (EE), the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), Section 27, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the Studies on Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) and Philippi Horticultural Area.
From 13 to 15 February 2018, SERI participated in a workshop hosted by the Women in Informal Employment Globalising and Organising (WIEGO) on the use of the law to protect and strengthen the rights of informal workers in South Africa. The workshop, entitled “WIEGO Law School: Using South Africa’s Administrative Law to Protect the Rights of Informal Workers”, focused on informal traders and waste pickers.
The workshop brought together the leadership and members of informal worker organisations from across South Africa to reflect on the challenges facing informal workers and come to grips with laws and policies governing informal work in South Africa. The workshop focused on the role that administrative law can play in protecting the rights of informal traders and waste pickers. Administrative law is the field of law that regulates the exercise of public power or the performance of public functions. This branch of law therefore governs virtually all government decisions that affect informal traders or waste pickers, including decisions to grant, suspend, revoke of withhold a trading license or permit, decisions to impose any conditions or restrictions on a trading license of permit, decisions to impound informal traders’ goods, or decisions to relocate or evict informal traders from their stalls.
The workshop included a panel discussion with various public interest law organisations, who spoke about the importance of legal protections and how their organisations can support informal workers in theri legal struggles. SERI executive director, Stuart Wilson, was part of the panel.
The workshop compliments SERI oingoing work on informal trade. Recognising the crucial role that local government plays on developing and implementing a supportive and enabling regulatory environment for informal traders, SERI has partnered with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in an effort to provide assistance to municipalities throughout the country by helping municipalities to understand their legal and constitutional obligations in formulating and implementing by-laws and policies that govern informal trade in their municipal areas. SERI is in the process of developing a set of recommendations to assist municipalities to formulate, update or implement by-laws and policies that are in line with informal traders' constitutional rights and the law. These recommendations and a review of the case law related to informal trade will be published later this year.
On 9 February 2018, SERI researcher, Kelebogile Khunou, gave a presentation on domestic workers' need for adequate housing as part of a housing theory course offered by the the University of the Witwatersrand's School of Architecture and Planning in Johannesburg. Khunou’s presentation considered the housing needs of docmestic workers from a gendered perspective.
Domestic workers represent one of the most vulnerable groups in South African society. There are more than one million domestic workers in South Africa who perform household tasks like cooking, cleaning and taking care of children and the elderly. Many of these workers are subjected to low wages and unfair working conditions. The vast majority of domestic workers in South Africa are women, who face a number of unique chanlleges in relation to housing, tenure security and access to basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation.
In light of these challenges, Khunou concluded that specific measures need to be taken for redress including strategies to ensure greater gender equity. Consideration needs to be made for the specific needs of women (and barriers to entry to women) in the design, financing and implementation of housing programmes. Lastly, special efforts need to be made to meaningfully engage with women who have work and child care responsibilities.
From 12 to 14 February 2018, SERI's director of research and advocacy, Alana Potter, is attending and participating in a national workshop on poverty and inequality hosted by the Mandela Initiative in Cape Town. The workshop brings together government officials, academics, researchers, business leaders and civil society representatives to analyse the current South African political and economic context and develop collaborative strategies on how to advance the goal of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality in South Africa. The workshop aims to reinvigorate the debate on the urgent need for social and economic change and allow those present to critically engage on a number of cross-cutting themes that are linked to poverty and inequality.
In preparation for the national gathering, the Mandela Initiative commissioned a series of briefing papers on cross-cutting themes that contribute to poverty and inequality to inform their draft synthesis report for the workshop. SERI, in collaboration with the African Centre for Cities (ACC), authored the briefing paper on urban land.