Today the Johannesburg High Court ordered that two house rules being imposed on residents of the Ekuthuleni shelter are an unjustifiable infringement on the residents’ rights to privacy, freedom and security of the person and human dignity. Judge Wepener interdicted the City of Johannesburg and its service provider, Metropolitan Evangelical Services (MES), against enforcing these rules at the shelter.
Ekuthuleni shelter was provided by the City to some of the residents of Saratoga Avenue who were relocated after the Blue Moonlight judgment by the Constitutional Court in 2011. The City outsourced the management of the shelter to MES, a Christian organisation that runs shelters and provides other social services for homeless people in the inner city. The City contracted MES to apply its “managed care model”, which it implements in its own homeless shelters, in Ekuthuleni. The City argued that Ekuthuleni is an overnight facility “akin to hotels, hospitals and student residents” and does not constitute a “home”. However the Judge found that the managed care model primarily caters for the supply of overnight facilities and is “not developed to accommodate persons in an emergency or temporary situation, as ordered in Blue Moonlight.”
The City and MES further argued that because the residents’ stay at the shelter is meant to be temporary and short-term, the infringement of certain constitutional rights was justifiable. The court found that “whether a period of six months twelve months or longer was foreseen is of no consequence as it had turned out that some of the persons who were the beneficiaries of the order of the Constitutional Court are still, some three years later, housed by the City pursuant to that order.”
The court found that “whilst the [Saratoga Avenue evictees] fall in a category of persons who require temporary or emergency accommodation, they do not fall into the category of persons who normally visit an overnight shelter” i.e. homeless and destitute individuals who seek overnight accommodation on an ad hoc basis.
On the day-time lockout rule, which forces all residents out of the shelter between 08:00 and 17:30 during the week (allegedly to encourage them to seek employment opportunities), Judge Wepener found that this rule results in “residents being exposed to dangers inherent in street life and inhibits their freedom in material respects and thus clearly infringes on their right to freedom, security and dignity.” Practically, this means that if the residents “should feel unwell or wish to attend to some private or personal matter, it must be done or suffered elsewhere than the place they stay.”
The High Court also found that the policy that disallows spouses and life partners from living together at the shelter is unjustifiable, with “humiliating consequences” which "compromises and disrupts the family as a unit; it creates emotional distance in a relationship; the inability to live as a family represents a loss of support for them and one another; it creates an additional financial burden on the couple’s limited financial resources; couples must implement ways to mitigate the lack of communication that the rule imposes on them; the most basic associative privileges connected to a marriage or permanent relationship are denied to them."
SERI and the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand are inviting submissions for a large public convening to engage the aftermath of the Marikana massacre and the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that followed it. This convening will take place in Johannesburg from the evening of 7 May to 9 May 2015. The public convening will provide a space in which competing narratives around what happened at Marikana can be aired, alongside and in engagement with the ‘official’ history, as set out in the Commission's report.
We are inviting proposals that discuss and engage with competing stories and histories of Marikana, both official and unofficial. We encourage proposals that engage with the processes of narrative construction in the Commission of Inquiry: with the legal framework and its rules of evidence, with political claims made, with activism in and around the hearing. What kinds of stories has the Commission encouraged, and what has it left out?
We also encourage proposals that tell other stories: what are the contexts within which Marikana occurred? What has happened afterwards – whether in the mining sector, in the home communities of the miners, or among the families of the deceased? The effects of the events at Marikana are continuing to resonate across the country: what might their impact come to be in the future?
In addition to critical academic papers, we are seeking practitioners’ and activists’ reflections on their involvement in Marikana and the Farlam Commission. Proposals for creative and artistic responses to the massacre and the Commission – including forms of creative writing, visual arts, curated exhibitions, performances, and other unclassifiable work – will be welcomed.
The deadline for proposals is 26 September 2014. Download the detailed call for proposals here.
SERI mourns the loss and celebrates the legacy of Odindo Opiata, founder and director of Hakijamii (the Kenyan Centre for Economic and Social Rights), champion of socio-economic rights, colleague and friend. Opiata passed away on 15 August after a battle with cancer. We offer our deep condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
A Facebook memorial page has been set up to send condolences and pay tribute to Opiata here.
During the week of 11 to 15 August 2014, SERI is paying tribute to the 37 miners whose families we represent at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.
Read here, visit SERI's Facebook page (in Marikana Anniversary 2014 photo album) or follow our Twitter timeline to see the faces behind the numbers and to read more about the miners, how they were killed and the impact their deaths have had on their families.
For more information on the Marikana Second Commemoration events to be held on 16 August, go to http://www.marikanajustice.co.za/.
In an article entitled "Legalizing economic and social rights can help the poor: reflections from South Africa", published on the open Global Rights platform, SERI's executive director Stuart Wilson challenges the central tenet of an article written by Jacob Mchangama (open Global Rights, 29 July 2014) which argues that legalising economic and social rights "will not help the poor."
The response by Wilson argues that "socio-economic rights contribute to economic and social transformation by correcting unreasonable state policy, and combating social exclusion. At its best, economic and social rights activism challenges power, mobilises poor communities and delivers significant concrete benefits to the poorest of the poor."