The police are supposed to protect the public from crime and violence, but they sometimes engage in unlawful behaviour such as corruption, brutality, and torture. Holding police accountable for wrongdoing is essential.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) together with SERI and other partner organisations including the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), Viewfinder, Corruption Watch, and the Anti-Repression Working Group of the C-19 People's Coalition, have developed a factsheet on police accountability to commemorate Youth Day. The factsheet is now available in isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English.
This factsheet has been developed to help members of the public understand police powers, their rights when encountering police, and their options for reporting abuses of power by the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The factsheet contains information about:
Over the past month, the people of eSwatini have intensified pro-democracy protests demanding systemic political reforms. The protests call for reform following years of widespread suppression of political actors, human rights defenders and journalists through the misuse of the law, arbitrary detention, torture and death. The protests also take place against a backdrop of persistent economic hardship and increasing unemployment.
The eSwatini military and police have responded to the protests with excessive use of force resulting in numerous reported deaths, injuries and arrests. On 29 June, the Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku instituted a curfew from 18:00 to 05:00 and the temporary closure of schools citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus as well as “to maintain the rule of law and de-escalate tension that had turned this exercise into violence and disorder”. There have also been reports of disruptions to internet connectivity in some parts of the country.
As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Forms or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the government of eSwatini has an obligation to uphold and protect the rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly.
The government of eSwatini also has a duty to ensure that any police use of force occurs only in compliance with the principles of legality, proportionality and necessity, in terms of the international and regional principles on the use of force. Disturbing mainstream and social media reports depicting security forces using live ammunition and rubber bullets would be clear violations of these principles.
SERI is deeply disturbed by these reports of repression and excessive use of force and is particularly concerned about the deployment of the military against protestors. While the government of eSwatini is yet to confirm any deaths or injuries, we extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends and comrades of those who have been killed or injured in the violence that has unfolded. SERI stands with all victims of police brutality and state-sanctioned violence in eSwatini and around the world and echoes the demands for justice, accountability, and political freedom.
We urge the government of eSwatini to heed calls to respect the rights of its people and refrain from blocking internet access. We also urge the eSwatini government to ensure that security forces refrain from excessive and unlawful uses of force against protestors and to be accountable for abuses that have occurred. We urge the South African government to call on the government of eSwatini to uphold and protect the rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly.
Download the press statement here.
In May 2021, a journal article by Lisa Chamberlain and SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako entitled, ‘Third time lucky? Provincial intervention in the Makana Local Municipality’ was published in the South African Law Journal (Volume 138 Part 2). The article discusses a recent case in which the Eastern Cape High Court, Grahamstown ordered the dissolution of the Makana Municipal Council as part of a provincial intervention. The article unpacks the law governing Section 139 interventions and, drawing on the Makana example, questions the efficacy of such interventions in addressing municipal failure.
South African local government is plagued by financial mismanagement and poor governance, resulting in widespread failure to realize socio-economic rights. One of the key mechanisms envisaged by the Constitution to address municipalities in crisis is provincial intervention in terms of s 139. However, although this mechanism is frequently used, its results have been underwhelming. This article discusses a recent case in which the Eastern Cape High Court, Grahamstown ordered the dissolution of the Makana Municipal Council as part of a provincial intervention. The article unpacks the law governing s 139 interventions and, drawing on the Makana example, questions the efficacy of provincial interventions. Further, a number of factors are identified which must be taken into consideration in order to maximise the chances that a provincial intervention might succeed. These include whether mandatory or discretionary intervention is appropriate; when the dissolution of a municipal council is an appropriate component of an intervention; the relationship between provincial intervention, stable governance and political influence; and the timing, funding and institutional arrangements of an intervention. The article concludes by highlighting the important role that community activism can play in catalysing intervention, but draws attention to the fact that such action can be dangerous for the activists involved.
The article draws from the research in one of the case studies in the Claiming Water Rights in South Africa research series, "Makana local municipality – provincial intervention in a municipal crisis".
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) Law Clinic wishes to fill up to two vacancies for candidate attorneys (CAs).
These vacancies will arise on or after 1 January 2022.
The requirements for the positions are as follows –
SERI wishes to contribute to the development of a new generation of human rights lawyers at the national and international level. Accordingly, the positions carry with them significant opportunities for travel and continuing professional training and development. The successful candidate will also join the Bertha Justice Fellowship Programme. You can learn more about that programme on http://berthafoundation.org/lawyers
In your letter, provide a detailed explanation of why you are interested in working for SERI, and what qualities and experience you would bring to the post.
Generalised covering letters, which do not engage with SERI’s activities and purpose, will not be considered.
The closing date for applications is Wednesday 15 July 2021. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted, and will be expected to make themselves available for interview in August or September 2021.