SERI is delighted to welcome Nomzamo Zondo as the new Executive Director. Nomzamo joined SERI as an attorney in February 2013. She became SERI’s third Director of Litigation in July 2014 and was elected to SERI’s Board in May 2018. During her time at SERI Nomzamo has secured compensation for the families of the victims of the Marikana massacre. She has reversed “Operation Clean Sweep”, the unlawful eviction of Johannesburg’s 8000 informal traders, before securing hundreds of extra market stalls for those traders. She has secured a binding legal commitment to upgrade the Slovo Park Informal Settlement, directly benefitting the lives of over 10 000 people. Nomzamo is a highly skilled litigator as well as a passionate and effective advocate for justice. We look forward to her continued work in advancing South Africa’s constitutional vision still further.
Asenati completed his LLB degree at Walter Sisulu University in 2015. He has demonstrated a long-standing commitment and passion for social justice, human rights activism, and public interest litigation. During his studies, he was an active member of Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ) and volunteered for Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI) working widely as a social justice activist. His activism was coupled with a great deal of student governance and leadership which led to his active participation in the #FeesMustFall movement and his election as the Secretary General of the Juridical Society (commonly known as Law Student’s Council) in his second year. Before joining SERI, he worked at the South African Human Rights Commission as a Research Associate based in the office of the Chief Operations Officer.
Nerishka holds a BA (Political Studies) and LLB degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is looking to pursue a Masters Degree which focuses on human rights litigation, with a specific interest in the rights of women and children in South Africa. Her interests include politics, legal transformation, and current affairs which touch on the socio-economic realities of different groups in South Africa. Nerishka Singh joins SERI as a candidate attorney in January 2020 having previously worked as a research intern at SERI from February 2019.
This is SERI's third and final newsletter of 2019. In it, we present a few highlights from our work since September 2019. SERI has undertaken over 500 litigious matters on behalf of hundreds of thousands of people and provided non-litigious support to many more.
In this period, we furthered our research and advocacy work, and participated in a number of exciting civil society and government engagements. Among these, we have given several presentations including on urban land reform; upgrading of informal settlements; the provision of sanitation services in dense informal settlements, and on the legal rights of waste-pickers.
We have also hosted and participated in a range of workshops including on the Right to Work; on the use of visual media, posters and slogans to promote awareness of housing and gender rights in inner city Johannesburg, and facilitated and took part in the 2019 Public Interest Law Gathering.
On Friday, 22 November 2019, ReimagineSA and the Nelson Mandela Foundation hosted a workshop on “Accelerating Inclusive Social Housing in Municipalities”. The workshop aimed to find ways to create collaborative models that would help accelerate inclusive housing in municipalities. In attendance were more than 30 social housing activists, academics, practitioners and government officials.
Victor Rambau, the CEO of the Johannesburg Social Housing Company spoke on the role municipalities play in the delivery of social housing and a panel made up of Mandisa Shandu (Ndifuna Ukwazi), Stephan de Beer (University of Pretoria) and Lauren Royston (SERI).
Royston’s presentation gave an urban land reform perspective on social housing. Royston noted that it was critical to expand social housing as the expansion of social housing to cater more directly to poor households would give the poor access to property and land in urban areas. She stressed that existing measures, such as the Social Housing Programme, needed to be amended or adjusted to create an environment that would allow for equitable access. And noted the potential for rent controlled housing to create secure tenure that would grant poor people access to housing and equitable access to land.
This gathering was the first of four that will take place throughout the country.
On 29 November, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) hosted an advocacy meeting on the rights of people with disabilities in Johannesburg. The purpose of the meeting was to advance coordination in research, advocacy and litigation relating to disability and socio-economic rights. It was attended by 20 disability activists, lawyers and researchers.
Tim Fish Hodgson (ICJ) opened the meeting with an overview of the Concluding Observations from the Committee on United Nations Covenant on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) with a focus on education and independent living. He argued that international law on the rights of persons with disabilities is currently a lot more advanced than local policies and legislation and is, therefore, a very valuable tool for advocating for these rights.
SERI reflected on the value of media advocacy, focusing on its documentary entitled, The Struggle to Be Ordinary which highlights the challenges women and girls with disabilities living in informal settlements face in accessing sanitation. SERI noted the positive feedback it has received, particularly from government officials, regarding the documentary and the accompanying policy brief which highlight the intersectional nature of challenges affecting the ability for women and girls with disabilities to access basic sanitation safely.
The group also discussed potential joint advocacy strategies on disability and socio-economic rights using the Concluding Observations as a key tool. Some ideas included engaging government on the implementation of the Concluding Observations; using social media to share stories and experiences of persons with disabilities and considering protest action centred on disability rights.
On 27 November 2019, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hosted a seminar entitled, ‘The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: A Background, South Africa’s Country Report and a Response by the South African Human Rights Commission’. The purpose of the seminar was to advance awareness and understanding of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and to reflect on the Concluding Observations issued by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in response to South Africa’s initial report. The seminar also sought to unpack the role of the State in realising economic, social and cultural rights and the potential impact on the alleviation of poverty, inequality, and unemployment in South Africa. The seminar, held in Johannesburg, was attended by approximately 30 members of civil society and government officials.
The seminar began with a presentation by Professor Sandra Liebenberg, Vice-Chair of CESCR on the mandates and functions of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This was followed by a panel presentation on the role of the Commission and civil society in monitoring the implementation of ICESCR, including Ms. Yuri Ramkissoon and Dr. Shanelle van der Berg (SAHRC); Ms. Gladys Mirungi-Mukundi (Dullah Omar Institute) and Ms. Nokukhanya Farise (International Commission of Jurists – ICJ).
Notably, Deputy Minister John Jeffery from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development joined the seminar via video conference. He spoke about the role of the State in implementing ICESCR and highlighted the progress achieved thus far including the Department hosting its first national colloquium on Access to Justice for Persons with Albinism, and its efforts in expediting the National Health Insurance Bill. The Deputy Minister also announced that the Department has plans to host a workshop on the implementation of the Concluding Observations where civil society organisations, government, and all relevant stakeholders will have an opportunity to meaningfully engage.
In like manner SERI, with the ICJ, hosted a workshop on the CESCR’s Concluding Observations in October 2019. The workshop focused on the Concluding Observations on the right to work and aimed to provide an orientation on the right to decent work as well as to facilitate a discussion on how the CESCR’s recommendations can be implemented and be used to further the advocacy strategies of the various precarious worker groups like informal traders, domestic workers, and waste reclaimers.