SERI's May 2014 newsletter is now available here. This is the first edition for 2014 and highlights SERI's research, advocacy and litigation work over the past 6 months. To sign up for SERI newsletters, press statements etc, fill out the mailing list form here.
SERI has noted with concern the deletion of paragraph 1.5 from the Marikana Commission of Inquiry's Terms of Reference, and the announcement that the Commission intends to curtail its proceedings on 31 July 2014.
The clause in paragraph 1.5 empowered the Commission to investigate “the role played by the Department of Mineral Resources or any other government department or agency in relation to the incident and whether this was appropriate in the circumstances and consistent with their duties and obligations according to law." The deletion of this clause has created the impression that the Commission does not intend to require any of the relevant cabinet Ministers to testify before it in relation to the role they played in the events leading up to the 16 August 2012 massacre at Marikana.
SERI remains of the view that, in particular, the Minister of Police has questions to answer in relating to his role in instigating and escalating the police operation that led to the massacre. Any failure to require him or any other cabinet minister in possession of relevant information to testify before the Commission would seriously undermine the Commission's credibility.
Today SERI made enquiries with the Commission. We sought clarification on the meaning and effect of deleting paragraph 1.5 of the Terms of Reference. We have been assured that –
SERI remains concerned that the deletion of paragraph 1.5 now makes it unlikely that the Commission will consider any of the broader policy determinants of the events of, and leading up to, 16 August 2012. This is a missed opportunity. Finally, SERI believes that even though the Commission’s mandate has now been significantly narrowed, it will not be able to hear all the necessary evidence before 31 July. We will be engaging with the Commission on this issue and will make further announcements in due course.
On 5 May 2014, residents of the Ekuthuleni shelter - who were moved as part of the Blue Moonlight Constitutional Court case - filed their heads of argument in Dladla case against the City of Johannesburg. The case seeks to challenge the rules and conditions in the shelter, which is run by Metro Evangelical Services (MES), an NGO operating in inner city Johannesburg.
The shelter is subject to various draconian house rules which the residents argue infringe their constitutional rights to dignity, privacy, freedom and security of the person, equality and access to adequate housing. The rules include day-time lock-out, which means residents are not allowed to stay in the shelter during the day; and gender segregated dorms, which have the effect of splitting up family units. The residents are also challenging the City’s claim that it is entitled to evict them without a court order. This, the residents argue, is contrary to section 26(3) of the Constitution, which prohibits evictions without a court order.
The Dladla case is important in that it may clarify a number of crucial legal questions, including whether alternative accommodation provided to prevent homelessness due to an eviction constitutes a home for purposes of constitutional right of access to adequate housing, and whether the managed care shelter model advocated by the City is constitutionally appropriate.
The case will most likely be argued in the South Gauteng High Court in September 2014.
On Monday, 5 May 2014, a new book entitled Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa: Symbols or Substance? will be launched at the L-70 Graduate Centre at the University of Pretoria at 5:15 pm. SERI senior researcher Jackie Dugard is one of the book's editors, together with Malcolm Langford, Ben Cousins and Tshepo Madlingozi.
This important book focuses on a range of socio-economic rights and national trends in law and political economy. The book's authors show how socio-economic rights have influenced the development of civil society discourse and action in South Africa. The evidence suggests that some strategies have achieved material and political impact but this is conditional on the nature of the claim, degree of mobilization and alliance building, and underlying constraints.
Former Justice of the Constitutional Court, Zak Yacoob, will be the guest speaker at the event.
On 11 April, an op-ed by Lauren Royston and Michael Clark was published in the Mail and Guardian looking at the state's failure to satisfactorily respond to the pressing challenges of urbanisation and the dire need for low-income accommodation in the City of Johanneburg.
The op-ed argues that a shift in the discourse about urbanisation and proactive public sector responses to manage urbanisation in a way that maximises public welfare must be the first step to addressing the challenges posed by urbanisation. The housing crisis in the City of Johannesburg is highlighted as one manifestation of the state's failure to plan for urbanisation. In failing to develop a coherent, formal plan for the provision of cheaper low-cost accommodation by either the private sector or the City itself, the City is exacerbating the pressures of urbanisation.