SERI is proud to announce that, as of May 2013, Justice Zak Yacoob has been appointed the Patron of SERI. Justice Yacoob served as a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from 1998 to 2013, during which time he wrote a number of groundbreaking judgments for socio-economic rights. These include Grootboom, Olivia Road, Mooiplaats, Skurweplaas. and Motswagae. As Patron of SERI, Justice Yacoob will assist us in starting a public lecture series on socio-economic rights, will be on hand to advise and encourage us in our work, and will disseminate information on socio-economic rights.
On 24 August 2012, 46 applicants who collectively refer to themselves as the “Forgotten Poor Black Citizens of South Africa” approached the Constitutional Court to make an application for direct access to the Court. The applicants seek an order from the Court setting aside a number of court orders from lower courts. The applicants declined the suggestion to obtain legal representation and, in order to further its understanding of the matter, the Court requested SERI and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) to conduct an initial investigation into the application and to compile a report of the findings. SERI and the LRC found that at the core, the majority of the matters the applicants seek to bring under appeal point very strongly to potentially far-reaching systemic failures in the process of evictions and executions concerning residential property.
On 14 May 2013, SERI appeared in the SCA representing a woman whose house was invalidly sold in execution. The Sheriff did not comply with the Uniform Rule 46(7)(e), which embodies important formalities: it advertises the sale of the property, including at the place the sale will happen, and informs the public of the nature of the thing to be sold. The full and proper advertisement of a sale-in-execution is an important means of ensuring that the sale achieves as close to fair value as possible, in the interests of both creditor and debtor. This case is important to ensure fairness of the sale-in-execution process. On 23 May 2013 judgment was handed down.
On 10 May 2013, Jackie Dugard will be presenting at a United Nations (UN) event in New York to celebrate the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR). The event is co-hosted by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR and the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net). Jackie will speak on "Reasonableness – Exploring the Relationship between Domestic Justiciability of ESCR and the OP-ICESCR". Read more on the event here.
On 3 May 2013, the Johannesburg High Court directed the Executive Mayor, City Manager and Director of Housing for the City of Johannesburg to personally explain why the City has not acted to provide shelter to the homeless, over 18 months after a Constitutional Court decision requiring it to do so. They must also take all the steps necessary to provide shelter to the 201 occupiers of Chung Hua Mansions at 191 Jeppe Street within two months. If they do not, they could be held in contempt, and be handed a fine or face jail time.
In granting the residents' application, Judge Satchwell said that the City could not simply "throw its hands up in horror" every time it had to house people about to be evicted. She also ordered the City to report on what it has done to respond to the Blue Moonlight judgment more generally. The report, which must be provided by 18 May 2013, must set out what budget the City has allocated to provide shelter to the residents and other poor people facing eviction, and whether it had set up a specific department to deal with people facing homelessness.