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[ADVOCACY] SERI participates in Solidarity Centre's Domestic Worker Litigation Exchange (7 August 2023).

DW_litigation_exchange.jpegFrom 17-19 July 2023, SERI participated in a Domestic Worker Litigation Exchange organised by Solidarity Center in Rosebank, Johannesburg. The Exchange was organised to introduce South African public interest legal organisations to human rights lawyers from Ethiopia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe, who want to bring impact litigation on domestic worker rights in their respective countries. The exchange provided an opportunity for the lawyers to engage with South African public interest legal organisations and learn about key cases from South Africa and the region. The exchange provided an opportunity to discuss legal approaches, strategies, arguments that have worked and might be successfully imported to other contexts; and correspondingly, strategies that did not work, and should be avoided.

SERI’s contribution to the exchange was a reflection on the Mahlangu v Minister of Labour matter. SERI gave a presentation on the interweaving of the strategies of litigation, research and advocacy in Mahlangu. The presentation started with insights of the advocacy and organising by domestic worker unions for inclusion in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), by Eunice Dhladhla, Assistant secretary general of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU).  Pinky Mashiane, president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa provided a narrative of the story of the Mahlangu family and their struggle for justice. SER's presentation highlighted the importance of the use of advocacy and research as an accompaniment to litigation, and revealed the challenges regarding the implementation of the Mahlangu judgment.

Chriscy Blauws of Women’s Legal Centre presented on their amicus intervention in the case of Mahlangu. She spoke about the importance of using an intersectional and feminist lens in litigation to achieve feminist jurisprudence that places the lived reality of black women at the forefront and to achieve substantive equality. She highlighted that the exclusion of domestic workers from COIDA discriminated against black women and violated a number of their constitutional rights as contained in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, namely their rights to equality, dignity and social security. These exclusions reinforced historical and apartheid practices and is contradictory to the purpose and spirit of the Constitution. To round off the presentations on the Mahlangu judgment, the litigation exchange greatly benefitted from a presentation by Judge Margret Victor, who wrote the majority judgment in Mahlangu, who highlighted domestic workers’ right to equality and dignity, the importance of applying an intersectional lens and South Africa’s international and regional obligations affecting the case. 

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The 3-day programme included robust conversations on several themes, including, domestic work and the platform economy, feminist legal methods, the use of international and regional human rights instruments in litigation, litigation on gender based violence and harassment at work. Organisations involved in the exchange included SERI, Women’s Legal Centre, Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa, University of Johannesburg, CENTROW, Institute for Economic Justice, International Commission of Jurists, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Lawyers for Human Rights, Southern Africa Litigation Center, and Amnesty International. Several academic experts and advocates also contributed to the programme. 

[PRESS STATEMENT] SERI condemns police use of excessive force against Slovo Park protestors (1 August 2023).

SERI Presser SlovoPark protest combinedSERI condemns the indiscriminate violence and excessive force used by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the ongoing protest in Slovo Park. On 31 July 2023, SERI learned that 16-year-old Karabo Chaka was killed after he was allegedly shot in the back of the head by the police in the Slovo Park informal settlement in the south of Johannesburg. This incident occurred during the community’s protest to draw attention to the lack of water and sanitation delivery in the settlement and a stalled informal settlement upgrading process. As part of the protest, residents blocked the N12 highway and in response, the police resorted to firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the informal settlement and pursuing fleeing protesters.

Karabo is yet another victim of violent policing by SAPS. While the specific details surrounding Karabo’s death remain unclear, we believe that it is further evidence of the police’s reliance on indiscriminate and deadly force, and a failure to facilitate protest through means such as communication, negotiation, and de-escalation.

While the context of protest is complex and dynamic, the police should be responding to protests with care for both protestors and surrounding communities and individuals who may not be a part of the protest. According to SAPS directives, the police are required to avoid the use of force “at all costs” and “must display the highest degree of tolerance”. If it is determined that the use of force is unavoidable, then the degree of force used must be proportional to the circumstances and threats present. This would require the police to act in a manner that is responsible with an awareness of their duty to protect life and prevent damage to property. Only a commander may instruct the use of any force and the use of rubber bullets in crowd management to disperse is only to be used in “extreme circumstances”.

The Slovo Park protest was a long-considered option borne out of community frustration with other avenues of engagement. The context is that in 2016, the High Court ordered the City of Johannesburg to commence the process prescribed in the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) for the upgrading of the Slovo Park settlement.  However, seven years since the Melani judgment, apart from the partial electrification of the settlement in 2018, access to basic services in Slovo Park is still lacking leading  to the death of several minors.

Since the judgment, the community of Slovo Park has engaged with the City of Johannesburg through the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), which represents the community in the upgrading process via an upgrading task team with the relevant parties. In these engagements, they have also shared the deaths of at least two children who died after falling into pit latrines and have consistently brought to the City’s attention the lack of access to running water, sanitation, and other challenges facing the settlement.

We are disheartened by the circumstances that have driven the community of Slovo Park to take to the streets. For nearly thirty years, since its establishment in the early 1990s, Slovo Park has been on the receiving end of broken promises made by government for upgrading and development. The City of Johannesburg has failed them. The community’s decision to take to the streets in protest is a measure of last resort, having exhausted other avenues available to them.

We mourn the death Karabo Chaka and extend our deepest condolences to his family and to the community of Slovo Park. We stand behind Slovo Park and we are in solidarity with their cause. We call on the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of Karabo’s death and demand that those responsible for his death be held accountable.

Contact details: 

  • Thato Masiangoako, SERI researcher: thato[at]seri-sa.org.
  • Khululiwe Bhengu, SERI senior attorney: khululiwe[at]seri-sa.org.

 

Download the press statement here.

[OP-ED] SERI's Khuliliwe Bhengu and Muano Nemavhidi reflect on the implications of eThekwini's informal trade by-laws (28 July 2023).

KB MN Op Ed DailyMav eThekwini informal tradeOn 25 July 2023, the Daily Maverick published an op-ed by SERI's Khululiwe Bhengu and Muano Nemavhidi entitled 'eThekwini continues to deny informal traders full trading rights despite high court ruling'. In 2015, in the matter Makwickana v Ethekwini Municipality and Others, the Durban High Court found in favour of an informal trader, John Makwickana, who had his goods confiscated by eThewkiwni law enforcement officials. The Court found that eThekwini Municipality’s by-laws potentially violate the rights of traders if they are implemented restrictively and ordered eThekwini Municipality to compensate Mr Makwicana for the value of his goods plus interest and to revise their by-laws to be in line with the Constitution.

In the op-ed, Bhengu nd Nemavhidi reflect on the new informal trading by-laws which eThekwini passed in 2019, a year after Makckwana had passed on. They find that the new by-laws present informal traders with barriers that begin with the application process and continue with overly restrictive enforcement which puts them at odds with the judgment. They write:

"In eThekwini, traders are easily criminalised and have their goods confiscated based on the by-laws, while their day-to-day realities and vulnerabilities are overlooked or not understood. This is against the spirit of our constitutional democracy which would require a truly consultative and inclusive scheme to regulate informal trade within the inner city."

Bhengu and Nemavhidi call for more constructive engagement between the municipality and traders to overcome challenges, as well as amendment of the by-laws in the ways outlined in the op-ed.

 

  • Read the full op-ed here.

 

[LITIGATION UPDATE] SERI, IEJ and #PayTheGrants launch of a court case challenging unfair exclusion of millions of people from the R350 SRD grant (27 Jul 2023).

On Friday, 21 July 2023, SERI filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court challenging regulations that unlawfully and unconstitutionally exclude millions of people living in poverty from receiving the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant. SERI represents the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) and #PayTheGrants (#PTG) in this matters. The court papers include 79 supporting affidavits from people directly impacted by these regulations. The respondents named in the case are the Minister for Social Development, and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

The court papers outline various reasons why eligible people are excluded from receiving the SRD grant, including: (1) the over-broad definition of income used to measure whether an applicant falls below the means-test threshold, (2) unlawful questions in the online application form, (3) the exclusionary online-only application process, (4) flawed bank and database verification processes, (5) a narrow appeals process that excludes relevant new evidence, (6) an arbitrary exclusion of qualifying applicants when funds are depleted, (7) a reduction in the grant's value over time, (8) an irrational and retrogressive income threshold, and (9) widespread and systemic non-payment of approved beneficiaries.

The applicants, alongside many civil society organisations, have repeatedly raised these impediments to access in good faith with government, in meetings and submissions over the last two years, in the hope that they would be resolved and rectified. Unfortunately, the barriers remain while the situation deteriorates further. 

  • Read the detailed account of the applicants’ argument here.
  • Access the Notice of Motion here.
  • Access the Founding Affidavit here.

[PRESS CONFERENCE] SERI represents IEJ and #PTG in challenging unfair exclusion of millions from SRD grant (26 July 2023).

PTG ConferenceThe Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), #PayTheGrants (#PTG), and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) will hold a hybrid press conference on Thursday, 27 July 2023 at 10:00am to announce the launch of a court case aimed at addressing the unfair exclusion of millions of people from the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.

The press conference will address the regulations that govern the value of the R350 SRD grant eligibility criteria and application procedures, as well as the manner in which the grant has been implemented. It will show how millions of people have been excluded, violating their right to social assistance and food, contained in section 27 of the Constitution.

SERI Executive Director, Nomzamo Zondo, IEJ Executive Director, Gilad Isaacs, #PTG Deputy Chair, Elizabeth Raiters, and two SRD grant applicants directly impacted by these regulations, Joleen Sampson and Vanessa Reece will address the press conference.

Please find the details for attending the press conference below:

Date: Thursday, 27 July 2023

Time: 10:00am

Venue: IEJ Offices, 3rd Floor, 62 Juta Street, Braamfontein

Zoom: Register and join

We look forward to your participation and engagement.

  • Download the full invitation here for further information and contact details.