On 27 November 2017, SERI filed heads of argument in an application for leave to appeal the judgment of the Durban High Court that dismissed an informal settlement resident's damages claim for the injuries he sustained while protecting his shack from being illegally demolished by a security officer in the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality's land invasion unit, as well as the destruction of his shack.
In this case, SERI represents Nkosinathi Mngomezulu, a resident of Cato Crest informal settlement in Durban, who claims damages for the physical injuries he sustained when a security officer in the municipality's land invasion unit shot him in the stomach four times, as well as for the unlawful destruction of his shack and his unlawful arrest and detention on charges of assault and attempted murder. The claims are based on the municipality's land invasion unit's illegal demolition of Mngomezulu and various other Cato Crest residents' shacks in September 2013. At the time, a series of court orders restrained the municipality from evicting any person or demolishing any shack at Cato Crest informal settlement (see the Mzimela case). While physically resisting this demolition, Mngomezulu was shot four times by a security officer in the municipality's land invasion unit. Then, after recovering for more than three months in hospital, Mngomezulu was arrested and detained initially on charges of assault and later on charges of atttempted murder.
The Durban High Court upheld Mngomezulu's claim for unlawful arrest and detention, ordering the Minister of Safety and Security to compensate Mngomezulu for the infringement of his rights, but dismissed Mngomezulu's claim for personal injury and the unlawful destruction of his shack. SERI, on behalf of Mngomezulu, applied for leave to appeal this decision on the basis that the court's finding that an informal settlement resident does not have a home in an informal settlement because he or she cannot give a precise address is naive to the realities faced by poor and vulnerable people in South Africa, and that the court's finding that Mngomezulu “violated the rule of law” by defending himself against an illegal eviction cannot be legally supported.
The application for leave to appeal was argued in the Durban High Court on 29 November 2017. On this day, Judge Pillay granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
On 21 November, the Parliamentary High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundemantal Change (the High Level Panel) delivered its report to the Speaker of Parliament at a special meeting at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. The panel, which is headed by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, was established by the South African Parliament to assess the impact of legislation passed by Parliament and Provincial Legislatures since the advent of democracy in 1994 and, particular, the effectiveness of legislative measures to address the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, land reform, and social cohesion. The panel consisted of 17 experts with recognised competence and expertise in the abovementioned issues.
SERI was involved in the work of the panel last year, when SERI contributed to a report on urban tenure security and informal settlements commissioned by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape. SERI's senior associate, Lauren Royston, also participated in a round-table, organised by the High Level Panel, to address evictions in urban areas and tenure insecurity. In addition, SERI's senior research associate, Michael Clark, co-authored the commissioned report on communal land tenure.
Frome 16-18 November 2017, a number of staff members from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) are in New York at New York University’s Kimmel Centre, co-hosting a workshop with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) entitled Seeking Justice in Adversity: Voices from South Africa and the United States. The aim of the workshop, which is funded by the Bertha Foundation, is to bring together lawyers, activists, and academics from the United States and South Africa to consider the use of law to protect and enhance the political spaces necessary to protect basic civil rights, and defend hard-won socio-economic rights gains made in the recent past.
The workshop aims to build alliances across the United States and South Africa, and to provide the opportunity to learn from experiences of struggle across the two jurisdictions. It also aims to facilitate the development of a shared vocabulary to consider the similarities and differences between South Africa and the United States’ experiences of systemic racism and violence. Finally, the workshop aims to build strategies and tactics that will enable further action by movements and movement lawyers.
On 8 November 2017, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI)'s senior associate, Lauren Royston, gave a presentation on how to secure tenure in the context of informal settlement upgrading at the Gauteng Land Development Summit held at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg. The summit, which was aimed at finding sustainable tenure and human settlements solutions to address the growing demand for housing in Gauteng, was attended by property developers, civil society representatives and government officials involved in the provision of housing and human settlments.
Royston's presentation highlighted a number of provisions in the legal and policy framework governing land use management and housing that could be used to enhance the tenure security and improve access to basic services for people living in informal settlement through the process of informal settlement upgrading. In particular, Royston referred to the Upgrading of Informal Settlement Programme (UISP) (which provides for "a variety of tenure arrangements [that] are to be defined through a process of engagement between local authorities and residents") and provisions relating to "special zones" in the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act 16 of 2013 (SPLUMA).
On 31 October 2017, Dr Mary Rayner, a human rights researcher with over 30 years of experience documenting human rights violations, appeared on SABC 2's longest running breakfast show, Morning Live, to discuss SERI's new research report on the disproportionate and unlawful use of force by police during the student protests at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2016. The new report, entitled A Double Harm: Police Misuse of Force and Barriers to Necessary Health Care Services (October 2017), documents the injuries caused by the misuse of force by the police who were called in to disperse campus-based protest at the university and deals with cases where the provision of medical assistance to injured protestors was obstructed by the police.
Rayner, a lead author of the report, stated that:
"We've examined a number of incidents where the injuries sustained were very troubling, the impact on the person injured is long-term and where there's no proper public discussion about what really happened... [These incident] can, in fact, profoundly impact on a perons because they feel it iw being denied, it didn't happen... We've offered to engage with [the police] ... and would very much welcome further discussion."
The report was launched last week along with Student Protests: A Legal and Practical Guide (September 2017), a user-friendly guide for students that explains students’ rights to protest, as well as students’ rights when they are arrested, detained or charged with a crime during a protest.