- Families to make closing arguments before the Marikana Commission (10 November 2014). On Tuesday 11 November 2014 the families of 36 of the deceased miners killed at Marikana in August 2012 will deliver closing arguments before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, instructed by SERI, will argue on behalf of the families. It has been a long and painful journey for the families. They have attended the Commission for two years in order to discover the truth about what happened to their loved ones, and why. They have come to a number of conclusions about what happened between 13 and 16 August 2012, and who bears responsibility for the massacre that occurred. >>Read the full press statement here.
Protest is the “only language government understands” (16 September 2014). On 16 September SERI launched a new research report entitled An Anatomy of Dissent and Repression: The Criminal Justice System and the 2011 Thembelihle Protest. At the event the author of the report, SERI researcher Michael Clark, explained how in September 2011 residents of Thembelihle informal settlement in Lenasia took to the streets, frustrated by an unaccountable and unresponsive local government. Their demands were dismissed and instead they were met with a forceful police clamp-down. In the aftermath of the protest, arrest and criminal prosecution were used to harass and intimidate community members and to target community leaders. >>Read the full press statement here.
- SCA dismisses Legal Aid SA’s appeal in Marikana funding case (8 September 2014). On 8 September the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed Legal Aid SA’s appeal against the High Court’s decision in Magidiwana v President of the Republic of South Africa handed down last year. The SCA indicated that it will give full reasons for its decision at a later stage. It made its ruling after asking the parties to address it solely on whether the appeal would have any practical effect or result. The injured and arrested miners, together the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the families of the deceased miners argued that Legal Aid SA’s promise to fund the miners meant that the appeal would have no practical effect. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- Marikana legal funding: correcting inaccurate reports (20 July 2014). SERI corrects an inaccurate and misleading report by reporter Loyiso Sidimba in the Sunday Independent which claims that lawyers for the arrested and injured miners at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry "received about R5.13 million in legal fees". This is not true. The papers submitted to the Supreme Court of Appeal by Legal Aid SA in fact state that no money has yet been paid to the miners, but that up to R5.13 million has been budgeted in terms of a contract that has yet to be concluded between Legal Aid SA and the miners' legal team. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- City of Joburg leaves poor out in the cold (10 June 2014). Over 1 000 occupiers of several inner city Johannesburg buildings issued an application in the Johannesburg High Court, requesting the court to declare that the City of Johannesburg has failed to discharge its obligations, under section 26(2) of the Constitution, to provide temporary accommodation to people facing eviction. The application is a response to the City’s attempt to get an order suspending nearly 30 pending evictions, because it does not have land or buildings available to provide for people who are evicted. The City claims this inability to provide alternative accommodation is due to it awaiting the outcome of the Dladla matter, in which residents of alternative accommodation provided by the City are challenging the lawfulness of the rules in the accommodation. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- Concourt slams “unacceptable” eviction (6 June 2014). On 6 June 2014, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in Zulu and 389 Others v eThekwini Municipality and Others (Zulu). SERI represents Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali) who acted as amicus curiae in the case. The case concerned the interpretation of a court order obtained by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works on 28 March 2013 from the Durban High Court. The order was used to justify the Cato Crest evictions in 2013. SERI welcomes the Court’s finding that the order amounted to an eviction order, and its finding that the eThekwini Municipality had used the order to evict people. The municipality had argued that the order could not and was not used to evict people, even though the municipality had relied on it to evict the appellants 25 times. The court correctly found this dishonest submission to be “unacceptable”. SERI also welcomes the judgment of van der Westhuizen J, which found that the order was invalid because it was granted in breach of the Constitution. >>Read the full SERI statement here.
- Marikana Commission Terms of Reference amended (10 May 2014). 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 any government department or agency in relation to the incident. 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 made enquiries with the Commission, seeking clarification on the meaning and effect of deleting paragraph 1.5 of the Terms of Reference, and were given a number of assurances. >>Read the full SERI press statement here.
- Con Court condemns Operation Clean Sweep as an act of "humiliation and degradation" (4 April 2014). The Constitutional Court today handed down a judgment explaining its reasons for ordering the City of Johannesburg to allow informal traders to return to their stalls in the inner city of Johannesburg on 5 December last year. Evoking the spirit of Nelson Mandela, the Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke condemned “Operation Clean Sweep” as an act of “humiliation and degradation” which rendered thousands of people, and their children, destitute. >>Read the full SERI press release here.
- Legal NGOs welcome UN Human Rights Council resolution on adequate housing (28 March 2014). SERI, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and the Community Law Centre (CLC) welcome the news from Geneva that a key United Nations (UN) resolution on the right to housing was adopted this morning at the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council. The resolution is important as it reiterates the international human rights law commitment to safeguard the right of access to adequate housing. It recognises that security of tenure enhances the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing and is significant to the enjoyment of many other socio-economic and civil and political rights. The resolution specifically reinforces safeguards against arbitrary eviction or the displacement of people with insecure tenure. >>Read the full SERI, CALS and CLC press statement here.
- Nkandla report’s story: Taking from the poor to give to the rich (20 March 2014). On 19 March 2014, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her report on the investigation into the upgrades made to President Jacob Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla. SERI notes with particular concern the finding that the Department of Public Works reallocated public funds earmarked for inner city regeneration and dolomite rehabilitation initiatives to the upgrades at the President’s residence. The report states that this “negatively impacted” on service delivery projects and constitutes improper conduct and maladministration. The ‘reallocation’ of public funds that could significantly alleviate the dire consequences of socio-economic disadvantage, poverty and inequality in this manner is deeply troubling. The government regularly asserts that it does not have the resources to fulfil its constitutional obligations to fully realise socio-economic rights. This report highlights that these claims are often disingenuous. >>Read the full press statement here.
SERI launches two research publications (27 February 2014). SERI releases two research reports which highlight the failure of the Johannesburg municipality to pursue just, humane and inclusive regeneration policies in its inner city. The first of SERI’s two reports responds to the fact that neither property owners nor municipalities have fully come to terms with the significant paradigm shift in the law relating to eviction and urban regeneration.The second SERI report shows that, there are few formal housing options available to low-income and poor inner city residents. >>Read the full press release here.
- Beatrice Mtetwa arrest a threat to the rule of law, Commonwealth mission finds (24 February 2014). The arrest and detention of Zimbabwean attorney Beatrice Mtetwa breached the rule of law, a Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) mission has found. The CLA’s final report on the trial observation mission undertaken to monitor the trial of the Zimbabwean human rights lawyer was released today. The mission was conducted between March and November 2013 by a trial observer team comprising staff at SERI. >>Read the full press state statement here.
- Credit consumers left in distress by Con Court judgment (20 February 2014). SERI has taken note of the Constitutional Court’s decision in Kubyana v Standard Bank, handed down on 20 February 2014. SERI respects the decision of the Court. However, we remain concerned that the decision may not do enough to protect distressed consumers who have fallen into arrears on their credit agreements and who are genuinely in need of debt counselling and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. These options are a debtor’s last hope of consensually resolving disputes which may result in money judgments being taken against them, perhaps leading to the loss of a home, or other property vital to their well-being. >>Read the full press release here
- Slovo Park informal settlement goes to court to compel upgrading (4 February 2014). On 30 January 2014 the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), represented by SERI, launched an application in the Johannesburg High Court on behalf of approximately 7 000 people (3 709 households) living at the Slovo Park informal settlement in Johannesburg. The Slovo Park residents want the court to review and set aside the City of Johannesburg’s failure to take a decision to make an application to the Gauteng Department of Local Government and Housing for funding to upgrade the informal settlement in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP). >>Read the SPCDF and SERI press statement here.