At the same time as providing direct assistance to communities, SERI also seeks to protect the political spaces within which communities can peacefully assemble, demonstrate, articulate and campaign for the advancement of their socio-economic rights claims.
Sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Constitution protect the rights to freedom of association, expression, assembly and demonstration. Poor people often peacefully assemble and demonstrate in service delivery protests. They also criticise employers, landlords and the state for unfair and often unlawful practices in the workplace, in delivering (or failing to deliver) appropriate services and/or in response to abuses in the landlord-tenant relationship. As a result, they often find themselves the subject of abuse and victimisation. This can take many forms. Sometimes, a spurious charge of public violence is laid against persons who have peacefully assembled or a defamation claim may result from a union’s criticism of an employer’s labour practices. Landlords often terminate residential leases in order to defeat efforts to organise tenants to press for fairer rental housing practices.
Often, the attempt to use civil or criminal remedies to silence legitimate demonstration or criticism amounts to an abuse of process. Where a person is subjected to a civil case because they have criticised their employer or landlord, or is subjected to a criminal charge solely because they have participated in peaceful protest related to socio-economic rights claims, SERI will consider providing legal representation. SERI’s ongoing research and advocacy agenda also encompasses issues of police brutality, official responses to protest and efforts to defeat protest concerning unfair rental housing and labour practices. SERI works together with organisations like the Freedom of Expression Insitute (FXI) and ProBono.Org on some of theses issues related to political space.
From September 2012, SERI has been instructed to represent the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), and 19 families of miners who were killed by the police on 16 August 2012, at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Read more on SERI's involvement here.
Relevant SERI research
- Resource guide: "Making Local Government Work: An Activist's Guide" by SECTION27, SERI and Read Hope Philips Attorneys (2011) here.
Relevant SERI cases
- State v Moyo, Swetsana and Sisulu ('Primrose') Makause - right to protest - alleged intimidation - Primrose police station - Germiston Magistrates Court
- Marikana Commission of Inquiry
- Mke and Others v Minister of Safety and Security ('Mke') damages claims - Abahlali baseMjondolo - Minister of Safety and Security - Durban High Court
Abahlali baseMjondolo and 52 Others v Minister of Police and Others ('Kennedy Road') damages claim - Kennedy Road informal settlement - police - eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality
State v Nkosi and 13 Others (‘Thembelihle’) criminal trial – Thembelihle – protests - Protea Regional Court
- Robertson Abattoir v Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural & Allied Workers’ Union (‘CSAAWU’) unfair working conditions - defamation - Western Cape High Court
State v Bhayi Bhayi Miya bail appeal - community protest - Thembelihle - South Gauteng High Court
State v Limaphi and 11 Others ('Kennedy 12') criminal trial - Abahlali baseMjondolo - Kennedy 12 - Durban Regional Court