The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) invites you to attend our event 

 

Launch invite FINAL

The evictions research series is concerned with the way in which the courts have adjudicated evictions. It aims to assess the courts' compliance with relevant legislation and case law. In addition, the series maps the spatial distribution of evictions to highlight any areas that face particular vulnerability.

This report is the first output in the series. Its focus is eviction cases in 12 wards in the inner city of Johannesburg and its immediate periphery filed at the Johannesburg Central Magistrate’s Court between 2013 and 2018.

 

WHEN: Wednesday, 23 March 2022; 15h00-16h30 via zoom

RSVP: https://bit.ly/35Rfr9o

Abahlali Ayanda Ngila SERI Presser combinedAbahlali baseMjondolo have reported that their member, Ayanda Ngila, was shot and killed on the afternoon of Tuesday 8 March at the eKhenana settlement. His death is yet another devastating blow to Abahlali and the residents of eKhenana. This comes after a year of intensified harassment: unlawful evictions, arbitrary arrests, unfounded prosecutions, violence and assassinations targeted at the settlement and its residents. Since 2018, Abahlali have lost six members in eKhenana to targeted assassinations. SERI is deeply saddened by this loss and extends its heartfelt condolences to Mr Ngila’s loved ones and to the movement for which he lost his life.

EKhenana is an informal settlement in Cato Manor, Durban, established in 2018. The settlement is organised and managed as a cooperative where residents have established a communal kitchen, a subsistence vegetable garden named after the late Nkululeko Gwala, a poultry farm named after the late S’fiso Ngcobo and a communally run spaza shop. Gwala and Ngcobo were Abahlali leaders who were also assassinated in 2013 and 2018, respectively. Abahlali are targeted for advocating for access to land and basic services in informal settlements and for organising poor people outside formal party politics. EKhenana is the latest site of targeted harassment and intense contestation over access to land.

During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, the eThekwini municipality carried out evictions at the settlement despite the moratorium on evictions instituted in terms of the State of Disaster regulations. Even after a settlement was reached in April 2020, when the community approached the High Court for an urgent interdict, eThekwini’s Anti‑Land Invasion Unit allegedly fired live ammunition at the settlement leaving eKhenana resident, Yamkela Vezi, injured with a gunshot wound to the hip.

In 2021 alone, a total of eleven Abahlali leaders and eKhenana residents were arrested on various charges ranging from murder, conspiracy to commit murder and assault. None of the prosecutions have resulted in a conviction. Ayanda Ngila, a leader of the eKhenana community, was arrested on two separate occasions. In March 2021, Mr Ngila and two other eKhenana community leaders, Lindokuhle Mnguni and Landu Tshazi, were arrested after being wrongly accused of murder. In September 2021, they were eventually released when the charges against them were dropped, after spending six months in remand detention at the Westville Prison. On 10 January 2022, Mr Ngila, Mr Mnguni and Mr Tshazi were arrested again, along with Maphiwe Gasela, who was also arrested and detained under separate charges in 2021. After numerous denials, the four were granted bail and released on 22 February 2022 from Westville Prison.

Other recent incidents related to eKhenana include an attack on the settlement that took place on 23 October 2021. A group of people allegedly connected to local leadership in the African National Congress (ANC) attacked the settlement, assaulting four women. Police arrived at eKhenana while the attack took place and instead arrested one of the women who was assaulted, Phumelele Mkhize. Police also arrested Maphiwe Gasela and charged her and Ms Mkhize with assault. They were released on bail two days later on condition that they do not return to their homes in eKhenana. The three other women who were assaulted had to be treated for their injuries in hospital. The women experienced difficulty when attempting to open a case with the Cato Manor police station because the police officers allegedly had to seek permission from a local ANC leader to open the women’s case. On the evening of 26 October, the homes of Maphiwe Gasela and Phumelele Mkhize were burnt down in their absence. Cato Manor police allegedly refused to open a case of arson and to investigate the allegations. These incidents were documented in a report submitted to the South African Human Rights Commission in October 2021.

On the evening of Sunday 6 March, residents in eKhenana were attacked again by a group of people allegedly linked to the local ANC following Abahlali’s General Assembly meeting which was held at the settlement. Abahlali members Siniko Miya and Langa Mbunguzana suffered severe injuries and had to be treated in hospital. In 2021, Mr Miya was arrested along with Abahlali’s deputy president Mqapheli Bonono and Maphiwe Gasela, and detained for six months without bail. EKhenana’s communal kitchen was also vandalised in the attack.

The violence and repression that Abahlali have experienced in eKhenana is reminiscent of the 2009 attack on the Kennedy Road settlement which resulted in at least two deaths, numerous injuries and arrests and widespread displacement of Abahlali members. Abahlali’s leadership had to flee from their homes and go into hiding. Since then, Abahlali have continued to face a combination of state-sanctioned and political violence in the form of repeated and often unlawful evictions, heavy-handed policing during protests, arrests and targeted harassment, threats and assassinations. Despite this, Abahlali, and similar-placed grassroots movements, have continued to advocate for their socio-economic rights and assert their civil and political rights at great risk and personal cost.

The abuse of the criminal justice system to repress social movements is an indictment on South Africa’s democracy and how it deals with dissent, particularly from marginalised groups. In any democracy, activists and social movements play a vital role in holding leaders accountable and insisting on the creation of a society that is more just. Criminal justice officials, who play a pivotal role in this context, have an obligation to carry out their duties in a manner that is unbiased and free from external influence, be it political or otherwise.

In 2018, the Moerane Commission of Enquiry report into political killings in KZN found that “acts of omission and commission by the police, through incompetence or political manipulation, has led to a loss of public confidence in the criminal justice system but especially the police services and security agencies in general, including crime intelligence, national intelligence, and the specialised policing and prosecution agencies.” The report recommended, amongst other things, that “the State take immediate measures to ensure that institutions of the entire criminal justice system are immediately depoliticised and the political manipulation of these agencies to meet political ends is immediately brought to an end and public measures be taken to instil confidence in the public that the State is acting vigorously, expeditiously, and without fear or favour.”

SERI strongly condemns the killing of Ayanda Ngila and demands that those responsible be held accountable. SERI calls for an immediate end to the repression in eKhenana and calls on the Provincial Commissioner of Police and Minister of Police to urgently intervene and investigate the conduct of police officials at the Cato Manor police station. We also call on the National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Human Rights Commission to urgently investigate the allegations of bias and misconduct by various officials involved in a series of cases brought against Abahlali members of the past year.

 

Contact details: 

  • Nomzamo Zondo, SERI executive director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 071 301 9676.
  • Thato Masiangoako, SERI researcher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 078 107 2083.

 

Download the full statement here

CSAAWU ConCourtOn 1 March 2022, the Constitutional Court of South Africa handed down its judgment in the matter of Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural & Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) and Others v Oak Valley Estates (Pty) Limited and Another. In this matter, the Court was asked to consider if a court can grant an interdict against a group of respondents when an applicant fails to link each of the respondents to the alleged or threatened unlawful conduct. SERI represents CSAAWU and 173 workers who sought to oppose an overbroad interdict prohibiting CSAAWU, striking workers, and unknown persons from protesting at Oak Valley Estates, a large farming estate in Grabouw, Western Cape.

In 2019, CSAAWU and its members embarked on a strike to demand a salary increase and to confront Oak Valley’s discriminatory allocation of on-site housing for its employees. The workers main complaint was that Oak Valley had been allocating single-sex hostels to its black employees and familial accommodation to its white and coloured employees. These housing polices effectively prevented Oak Valley’s black employees, many of whom are from the Eastern Cape, from living with their families in the Western Cape.

Oak Valley approached the Labour Court to interdict conduct that allegedly consisted of “preventing access to and from Oak Valley’s property; causing damage to its property and the property of other persons on Oak Valley’s premises; intimidating and assaulting Oak Valley’s employees; obstructing the N2 highway at Grabouw; and engaging in other unlawful acts and criminal conduct during the strike.” 

SERI approached the Constitutional Court to appeal an order by the Labour Appeal Court partially confirming the interdict granted by the Labour Court.  SERI argued that a person cannot be interdicted and restrained from unlawful conduct they did not commit, simply because they were part of a crowd in which others acted unlawfully. SERI argued that to do so would be inconsistent with the rule of law and that “it would have a chilling effect on the both the right to strike, and the right to protest.”

In its judgment, the Constitutional Court found that “for interdictory relief to be competently granted, a factual link between an individual respondent and the actual or threatened unlawful conduct must be shown”. As such, the Court granted leave to appeal the interdict with the exception of the first applicant (CSAAWU), whose leader was arrested for intimidation, and the 23rd applicant (one of the workers named by Oak Valley in their founding affidavit), for whom a sufficient link to the unlawful conduct could be identified. SERI welcomes the judgment as an affirmation of the right to protest: it should bring an end to overbroad interdicts that seek to unjustifiably limit this right.

Contact details:  

  • Nkosinathi Sithole, SERI senior attorney: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 076 407 4761
  • Asenati Tukela, SERI attorney: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 078 684 7658

Download the full statement here

Dyantyi2022PresserOn Monday, 21 February 2022, the Supreme Court of Appeal will hear the matter of Yolanda Dyantyi v Rhodes University and others. In this matter, Ms Dyantyi will appeal the decision of the Grahamstown High Court to dismiss her review application and set aside the outcome of a disciplinary hearing process instituted by Rhodes University in March 2017. Ms Dyantyi was found guilty of committing kidnapping, assault, insubordination and defamation during the #RUReference List protests in April 2016. She is permanently excluded from the University and interdicted from attending the University for any purpose from November 2017.

The hearing will commence at 09h45 and will be livestreamed on the SERI YouTube page. 

  • Access the livestream here.

 

Contact details:  

  • Nomzamo Zondo, SERI Executive Director: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 071 301 9676

 

  • Download the full statement here

 

minimum wage presserLast week, Minister for Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi announced the National Minimum Wage increase for 2022, including the announcement that domestic workers will be entitled to 100% of the national minimum wage. From 1 March 2022, employers, including employers of domestic workers, will be required to pay their employees a minimum of R23, 19 per hour, which translates to approximately R4019, 57 per month for domestic workers who work 40 hours a week and R4522, 02 for workers who work 45 hours a week.[1]Until now, a lower minimum wage rate was imposed on domestic workers, who earned 75% of the nation­­­­­­al minimum wage in 2019 and 2020; and 88% in 2021. 

Domestic worker unions and allied organisations welcome the raising of the minimum wage for domestic workers to 100% of the national minimum wage, a decision which affects South Africa’s 900 000 domestic workers, the majority of whom are women. It is our hope that this decision signals the growing recognition of domestic workers as “real” workers equally deserving of the entitlements afforded to all other workers. Given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector, whose numbers dropped from just over 1 million domestic workers to 745 000 at the height of the pandemic, the minimum wage for 2022 stands to significantly affect the lives of domestic workers and their families. 

While this change at a policy level represents a significant step in realising the rights of domestic workers, the reality on the ground warrants attention. A 2021 report by online home services platform, SweepSouth, on pay and working conditions for domestic workers across Africa, reveals that 66% of domestic workers earned below the minimum wage, which was then approximately R3308, 91 for domestic workers working 40 hours a week, and that 21% earned less than R1500.[2]  This highlights the ongoing issues of non-compliance by employers and the need to strengthen the Department of Employment and Labour’s enforcement mechanisms. 

Furthermore, while we welcome the inclusion of domestic workers in the national minimum wage, we also call attention to the fact that for the majority of workers, the minimum wage, the lowest pay an employer can legally provide to their employee, is insufficient to meet the basic needs of workers and their families. According to Statistics South Africa, the poverty line is R1335 per person per month.[3] We therefore call for the national minimum wage to be regularly adjusted to the cost of living to ensure an adequate standard of living for workers and their families.

In addition to the above recommendations on wages, we make the following recommendations on improving the working conditions of domestic workers and other aspects of the sector. We encourage the Department of Employment and Labour to: 

  • Promote the recognition of domestic work as real work and the value of domestic work to the South African economy;
  • Raise public awareness of domestic workers rights;
  • Promote registrations for Unemployment Insurance and Compensation for Occupational Injuries with the respective funds amongst employers; 
  • Strengthen its enforcement mechanisms in the domestic work sector by securing a sufficient number of qualified labour inspectors and ensuring that their compliance orders are respected and enforced.
  • Ensure that domestic workers have access to effective complaint mechanisms, including by ensuring that all officials of the Department of Employment and Labour and the CCMA respond professionally to domestic workers reports of mistreatment and follow due process to ensure that employers who are not meeting labour regulations are held accountable. 

Contact details: 

 

[1] With the exception of Expanded Public Workers Programme (EPWP) workers.

[2] https://blog.sweepsouth.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2021-domestic-worker-report-full-2-1.pdf

[3] Statistics South Africa, National Poverty Lines, Statistics South Africa (2021). 

 

Download the full statement here

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