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[SUBMISSION] SERI makes a submission on the draft Magistrates Bill and Lower Courts Bill (30 June 2022).

Submission on the draft Mag Bill and Lower Courts Bill cover

On 30 June 2022, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa made a submission to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on the draft Magistrates Bill and the Lower Courts Bill issued for public comment in March and April 2022.

The Magistrates Bill is aimed at regulating the procedure relating to the appointment, dismissal and disciplinary action taken against magistrates, as well as providing for the establishment of a Magistrates Commission. The Lower Courts Bill, on the other hand, is concerned with court structure and aims to provide for the establishment of lower courts, as well as provisions for their administration. Both Bills aim to align the magistrates and lower court systems with the Constitution. The Bills will replace the existing Magistrates' Courts Act(Act No. 32 of 1944) as well as the Magistrates Act(Act No. 90 of 1993).

SERI notes that overall, both Bills seem to form part of a larger initiative to reform the judicial system in South Africa. While many of the goals of the reform are welcome, SERI notes with concern the atomized manner in which change is being implemented and calls for clarity from the Department on the vision of this reform and the means to achieving it. For example, it is unclear how the Bills currently under discission relate to other proposed legislation that the Department has introduced, for example, the 2021 Land Court Bill, on which SERI also made a submission. A holistic and interactive approach is essential for reform measures to meaningfully respond to the complexities of the court system, judiciary and needs of the general public in exercising their rights through litigation.

SERI has considered the Bills and makes this submission on the basis of extensive public interest litigation, research and advocacy experience. SERI draws specifically on a SERI research report recently launched, which deals specifically with how eviction matters are adjudicated at the magistrate’s court level. SERI makes this submission because the Bill could potentially re-enforce the findings of the research and therefore negatively affect poor and vulnerable households facing eviction in the Johannesburg inner city.

Although SERI acknowledges that there is merit in reforming outdated structures, guidelines and practices of both the magistrates and the structure of the lower courts, SERI's makes the following comments and recommendations:

  • The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development should provide clarity on the vision of legal reform in South Africa and how these Bills and other proposed legislation, such as the Land Court Bill, relate to one another.
  • A stronger stance is needed in the Magistrates Bill on compulsory, continuous training of magistrates, as motivated for by the findings of SERI’s research on the magistrates’ courts, as well as by other external research capturing the views of magistrates themselves.
  • Stronger obligations should be placed in both Bills on magistrates to ensure that unrepresented respondents are duly protected by the courts in litigation processes.
  • Section 7 of the Lower Courts Bill on the establishment of municipal courts should be removed as the involvement of two arms of state in the court structure has the potential to interfere with judicial independence, and such courts could disproportionally and negatively affect the poor and vulnerable.
  • Section 114 in the Lower Courts Bill limiting the right to appeal should be removed as it has the potential to negatively affect access to justice for the poor and vulnerable.


  • Download the full submission here

[PRESS STATEMENT] State violence against youth has persisted since 1976 (16 June 2022).

SERI ABM presser Youth DayThursday, 16 June 2022 will mark 46 years since the 1976 Soweto youth-led uprisings when police opened fire on protesting students, killing and injuring hundreds. Since the end of apartheid, poor communities, workers, and young people have continued to suffer state and political violence meted out to stifle both dissent and legitimate concerns.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Marikana massacre for which no one has been held accountable. The events at Marikana left 44 people dead, and of the mineworkers killed 18 were 35‑years old or younger. Over the years, the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement has also lost at least eight young people to state and political violence. In 2021, excessive use of force against student protestors culminated in the killing of 35-year old Mthokozisi Ntumba, a bystander.

To commemorate Youth Day and reflect on these issues, Abahlali baseMjondolo, family members of the mineworkers killed at Marikana and SERI have partnered to host two activities aimed at drawing attention to the scourge of state and political violence.

On 16 June, we will host a workshop entitled, ‘Struggle & Memory: Writing our own stories’ at which Dr. Julian Brown will present and facilitate a discussion on his new book, ‘Marikana: A People’s History’ as well as Abahlali baseMjondolo’s experiences of state violence. The workshop will further unpack the importance of people and communities writing their own stories and owning the narratives of their struggle that accurately reflect their experiences and present their perspectives.

On 17 June, at 08:00, Abahlali baseMjondolo will lead a picket at the City Hall and at the South African Human Rights Commission in Durban to demand justice for the unwarranted killing of youth in South Africa by the police. The picket seeks to highlight that there has been no accountability for any of the abuses by the police at Marikana, at various student protests, and against social movements and community-based organisations like Abahlali baseMjondolo who continue to lose activists. Such violence has unfortunately become the norm because of failures to hold perpetrators to account.

SERI and Abahlali baseMjondolo commemorate this Youth Day in remembrance of the fearless young people who have lost their lives in the struggle against past and present oppression.

Contact details: 

  • Thapelo Mohapi, Abahlali baseMjondolo general secretary: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 084 576 5117.
  • Thato Masiangoako, SERI researcher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ 078 107 2093.



  • Download the statement here.

[ADVOCACY] SERI, ICJ, LHR and the Scalabrini Centre develop an explanation poster on the draft National Labour Migration Policy and the Employment Services Amendment Bill (8 June 2022).

The South African government recently developed the draft National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) and the Employment Services Amendment Bill (ESAB). The draft National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) was introduced to facilitate and regulate the flow of labour to and from South Africa. It's aimed at addressing the country's "brain drain" by keeping skilled workers in the country. Similarly, the Employment Services Amendment Bill (ESAB) was created to amend the Employment Services Act (2014) to regulate the employment of non-South African nationals.

The South African government states that, overall, the draft policy and Bill are aimed at retaining skilled labour, growing the economy, creating opportunities for South Africans and combatting unemployment.

While we welcome the introduction of laws to protect workers' rights, the NLMP and ESAB fall short in this regard. Our poster explains the shortcomings of the ESAB and NLMP and how they can be improved. 


Draft NLMP ESAB factsheet 7 June


  • Download the explainer poster here
  • Download SERI and LHR's submission on the NLMP and ESAB here

[ADVOCACY] Oxford Human Rights Hub releases blog and podcast on SERI’s Just and Equitable? Evictions Research Series (2 June 2022).

Oxford HR Hub YE NS blogThe Oxford Human Rights Hub has just published a podcast episode and blog post on SERI's research on how eviction cases in the Johannesburg inner city are adjudicated by the courts. 

SERI’s Just and Equitable? Evictions Research Series is concerned with the way in which the courts adjudicated evictions in the Johannesburg inner city between 2013 and 2018. It aims to review the courts’ implementation of relevant legislation, such as Section 26(3) of the Constitution and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 (the PIE Act), and case law. In addition, the series maps the spatial distribution of evictions to highlight any wards in the inner city that face particular vulnerability.

On 23 March 2022, SERI launched the first research report in the series entitled An analysis of eviction cases in the Johannesburg Central Magistrate’s Court and their compliance with the law. It analyses eviction cases in 12 wards in the inner city of Johannesburg and its immediate periphery litigated at the Johannesburg Central Magistrate’s Court between 2013 and 2018 and asks whether eviction applications have been examined through the just and equitable lens, as the legislation requires.  

The recently published podcast episode entitled 'Spotlight on an understudied institution: evictions and the Magistrate's Court in South Africa' was recorded a podcast in August 2019, when the research into the magistrate’s court was still underway, with lead author of the magistrate’s court report, SERI’s Nerishka Singh and with Timothy Fish Hodgson from the International Commission of Jurists (Africa). SERI’s Yvonne Erasmus, co-author of the report, and Nerishka penned a blog for Oxford Human Rights Hub entitled, 'How Evictions Law Has Been Implemented in the Lower Courts in South Africa' to accompany the podcast and set out the key findings from the research into the magistrate’s court.

  • Read the blog here.
  • Listen to the podcast here.
  • Read the report here

[SUBMISSION] SERI and LHR make a submission on the draft National Labour Migration Policy and the Employment Services Amendment Bill (30 May 2022).

submission with LHROn 27 May 2022 SERI and LHR made a submission to the national Department of Employment and Labour on the draft National Labour Migration Policy and the Employment Services Amendment Bill that was released for public comment on 28 February 2022. 

Although SERI and LHR acknowledge that there is some merit to bringing clarity to issues in the formal employment relationship, and although we agree with government on the need to address the high rate of unemployment in the country, our critique of the policy and Bill relates largely to the following, which we set out in greater detail in the submission:

  • The contemplated restrictions to the right to work go against South Africa’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that protects the right to work regardless of nationality, legal status and documentation. The proposed measures are also inconsistent with various rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. 
  • The policy and Bill aim to regulate a broad spectrum of sectors and skills-levels (from critical skills to low-skilled work) under the same umbrella legislation, therefore not considering sector-specific challenges and nuances, as well as potentially varied outcomes.
  • The policy and Bill are premised on a false assumption that the solution to the high unemployment facing the country lies in the restriction of migrant work and the reservation of opportunities for South African workers. This assumption has been repeatedly debunked through research and is also not supported in consultations that SERI and LHR have done with client groups in preparing this submission. It is a proposal that misses the complexity of the problem as well as its structural underpinnings. 
  • Pitting local workers against migrant workers, whether in public discourse or proposed legislation, has the potential to further fuel xenophobic tensions. This does not imply a lack of sympathy for South Africans who are struggling under the weight of unemployment, but this narrative shifts the full blame for unemployment onto migrants, while the reality is more complex and structural. 

This submission is informed by consultations with partners and clients from three sectors or interest groups: domestic workers, farm workers, and refugees and asylum seekers. As set out in the submission, in all three groups we found large-scale opposition to restrictions placed on the right to work of foreign nationals. 

SERI and LHR therefore argue for a substantial reconceptualisation of the NLMP and Bill in relation to how its provisions affect the right to work of migrants, particularly in low-skilled work. 

The submission is endorsed by ten organisations and networks. 

  • Download the full submission here