On 24 August, SERI filed heads of arguments before the Supreme Court of Appeal on behalf of Makause community activist, General Moyo.
This case in the emanates from a criminal charge laid against Moyo and two other activists from the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo), a community-based organisation in Makause informal settlement, following attempts by him and other residents to hold a march against police brutality in Primrose, Germiston in 2012. He was charged with “intimidating” the Station Commander of the Primrose Police Station in Germiston, in terms of section 1(1)(b) of the Intimidation Act 72 of 1982. Moyo, with the assistance of SERI, seeks to have sections 1(1)(b) and 1(2) of the Intimidation Act unconstitutional and invalid. His trial in the Germiston Regional Magistrates’ Court will be postponed until this challenge is finally determined.
Section 1(1)(b) of the Intimidation Act criminalises expressive acts which “have the effect” or “might reasonably be expected” to have the effect of placing any person in fear for their personal safety, the safety of their property or their livelihood, or the safety of the person, property or livelihood of another. In the heads of argument before the Supreme Court of Appeal, SERI, on behalf of Moyo, argues that this provision is overbroad, and has the effect of criminalising a wide range of expression protected in terms of the right of freedom of expression enshrined in section 16(1) of the Constitution.
In addition, Moyo challenges section 1(2) of the Act, which creates a reverse onus in all proceedings brought under section 1(1)(a) of the Act. Section 1(1)(a)(ii) of the Act criminalises threats made “without lawful reason” to “kill, assault, injure, or cause damage” to any person with the intention of inducing that person to “do or restrain from doing any act” or “assume or abandon a particular standpoint”. The effect of the reverse onus in section 1(2) is that an accused person must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that he or she had a lawful reason to issue the threat criminalised under section 1(1)(a)(ii), unless he or she makes a statement “clearly indicating the existence” of a lawful reason before the prosecution closes its case. If no such statement is made, the threat is presumed to have been unlawful. On this basis, Moyo argues that section 1(2) breaches the right to silence, the right not to be compelled to make self-incriminating admissions, and the right to be presumed innocent (contained in section 35 of the Constitution). This is due to the fact that an accused person must sacrifice the rights to silence and against self-incrimination, if he or she is to be given the benefit of the presumption of innocence. If, on the other hand, he or she wishes to exercise his or her rights to silence and protection from self-incrimination, he or she must accept that he or she will not be presumed innocent.
Photo by Kate Stegeman.
On 14 August 2017, SERI's director of ligitation, Nomzamo Zondo, was interviewed on SABC's Morning Live, where she discussed the City of Johannesburg's use of "shock and awe" military tactics against the urban poor and the City's constitutional housing obligations.
On 17 August 2017, SERI research fellow, Nthabiseng Nkhatau, made a presentation at the launch of the women's desk of the Tshwane Barekisi Forum, an organisation of informal traders in Tshwane. The presentation, which was based on Informal Trade in Johannesburg: Your Rights (SERI's user-friendly resource guide for informal traders in Johannesburg), provided information on the rights of informal traders and how traders can protect these rights and resist illegal harassment and clamp-downs on their businesses. Over 60 copies of the guide were distributed at the event.
The event was attended by approximately 80 participants, including local government officials, representatives of civil society organisations, repesentatives from the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and Tshwane Barekisi Form, and informal traders from in and around the Tshwane area.
The women's desk was developed as a platform within the Tshwane Barekisi Forum for women to share ideas and deliberate about the unique challenges they face as informal traders. The women's desk seeks to build a support network among female traders, develop collaborative strategies to grow their businesses, and amplify the voices of female traders.
Today marks five years since the police brutally shot and killed 37 striking mine workers, who were protesting for better wages in Marikana. However, very little has changed for the widows and families of the mine workers.
Five years after the massacre, the state is yet to take responsibility for its role in the killings. There has been no official state apology to the families who lost their loved ones, something that has, and continues to be, demanded by the families. The state has also failed to hold the police officers who shot the miners and those who ordered them to do so accountable, with not a single police officer appearing in court to face charges associated with deaths of mineworkers.
It's time for #JusticeForMarikana.
On 8 August 2017, the international news website, Al Jazeera, published an opinion piece written by the Local Government Action (LGA)'s national coordinator, Koketso Moeti. The op-ed argues that tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire in London and the Cape York fire in Johannesburg can be avoided if cities rethink their approach to urban housing.
Moeti quotes research published by SERI in 2013 to show that cities like Johannesburg are failing to provide affordable housing solutions to low-income residents. She writes:
"...Across the world's cities, many residents live in substandard conditions, mostly out of desperation. For too long local governments across many cities have allowed only market forces to dictate the kind of development that is taking place. All too often that is at the expense of low-income residents who are either pushed out of the city or forced to live in unsafe conditions. City authorities are failing to prioritise safe, affordable accommodation.
"Research (pdf) into the supply of and demand for low-income accommodation in Johannesburg's inner city found that both availability and affordability were major problems for almost half of these residents, who earn less than $245 [R3 200] per month. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa found a household would have to earn about $440 [R7 500] per month to afford the cheapest formal rental available from the private sector."