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[ADVOCACY] SERI's Jason Brickhill delivers Equal Education's Inaugural Yoliswa Dwane Memorial Lecture (17 March 2023).


JBrickhill EE Yoliswa Dwane Memorial LectureOn 24 February 2023, SERI director of ligation Jason Brickhill delivered the Inaugural Yoliswa Dwane Memorial Lecture on the occasion of Equal Education's 15-year anniversary. Yoliswa Dwane was one of the co-founders of Equal Education in 2008, alongside Joey Hasson, Doron Isaacs and Lumkile Zani.  She was also instrumental in forming Equal Education Law Centre and served on its first board. Dwane sadly died of cancer in October 2022. Today, the Daily Maverick has published the full lecture.

Brickhill’s lecture, entitled ‘Every generation has its struggle – activism and the law in the struggle for social justice’, reflected on Dwane’s commitment and activism during the early stages of Equal Education’s journey as a movement. Before joining SERI, Jason Brickhill worked for Legal Resource Centre (LRC) when it represented Equal Education in a case against the Minister of Education that advocated for introducing norms and standards for school infrastructure. Reflecting on his work with Dwane on the case, Brickhill noted that,

"Yoliswa played a leading role, and she ultimately deposed to the main founding affidavit on behalf of EE. I remember her, during that Norms and Standards time, as being direct, decisive and straight-forward. She was not one for long emails when a short one would do. She was all about the movement and about its objectives, not about getting attention or acclaim."

DM Yoliswa Dwane EE

Brickhill also reflected on his experience of working with Equal Education on the case, celebrating that,

"[it] was an exceptionally difficult client – difficult in all the best ways. The EE people on the cases would engage with every detail, weigh up every tactic and strategy, would debate with their lawyers. This made the work charged and stimulating, produced carefully crafted court papers and a coherent messaging inside and outside the courtroom." 

During her time with Equal Education, Dwane prioritised the building of the movement which went beyond growing Equal Education in terms of numbers and instead focused on building institutions and structures and fostering political education. She, along with other leaders like Yana van Leeve, led a youth reading group that met weekly. The group would gather in Khayelitsha every Wednesday evening and critically engage that week’s reading on themes of gender, race, class, and power, debating what it meant for contemporary South Africa. 

Brickhill noted that for Dwane, Equal Education was about “building an organisation that contributes to the improvement of the condition of the working class”.  Yoliswa Dwane left behind a rich legacy of activism and relentless commitment to equal and quality education for all.

Access the full lecture here, published by the Daily Maverick.

[LITIGATION UPDATE] Melita Ngcobo awarded civil damages for 2019 wrongful arrest (16 March 2023).

Melita Ngcobo Thando GeorgeOn 2 March 2023, the Tembisa Magistrate’s Court awarded Abahlali baseMjondolo’s Melita Ngcobo civil damages in a matter against the Minister of Police for her wrongful arrest in 2019. Ngcobo was wrongfully arrested when she and other community members tried to stop a municipally‑appointed contractor from carrying out demolitions in the Vusumuzi informal settlement in Tembisa, Johannesburg. The demolitions were being carried out as part of the Municipality’s re-blocking initiative carried out for the purposes of reorganising the informal settlement in order to create roads and introduce basic services infrastructure.

When the demolitions were being carried out, in November 2019, Ngcobo was assaulted by another community member who threw a stone at her, causing her to be gravely injured. When the police arrived, Ngcobo was taken away by the police for her own safety but was later arrested and detained for two days. She was held in custody and denied medical attention despite her having suffered serious injuries.

  • Read more about the case and access all the papers here.

[SUBMISSION] SERI and IEJ make a submission on amendments to the Regulations relating to Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant issued in terms of the Social Assistance Act (14 March 2023).

SERI IEJ SubmissionLast Week, SERI and The Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) made a submission to the Department of Social Development (DSD) on amendments to the Regulations relating to Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant. 

The process of amending the Regulations provides an opportunity to address key areas of concern which have been raised repeatedly by civil society, including the exclusion of large numbers of beneficiaries, the imposition of a low means test, and the continued inadequate level of the grant. However, aside from the expiry date, no other aspects of the Regulations have been amended. This is deeply concerning, given that specific provisions in the Regulations have led to very high levels of exclusion, and that the value of the grant continues to be eroded, and highly inadequate. Our submission details these areas of concern and provides key recommendations to address exclusion and unfairness. Among others the submission addresses; 

  • Amended end date 
  • Value of the grant 
  • The use of bank verification to determine eligibility
  • Income eligibility threshold
  • Online-only applications 
  • The removal of the South African Post Office (SAPO) as a means of accessing payment 

Our submission discusses these flaws and injustices at length, and puts forward a series of recommendations for the improvement of the Regulations and administration of the SRD grant.

  • Access the full submission here
  • Read the press statement on the submission here.

[ADVOCACY] SERI partners with the Slovo Park informal Settlement to host a Women’s Spaces Consultation (27 February 2023).

On the 23rd of February 2023, SERI partnered with the Slovo Park informal Settlement to host a Women’s Spaces Consultation. The day long consultation focused on the gendered challenges and experiences faced by residents across the informal settlement. Specifically, the consultation sought to gain deeper insight into the challenges women face in terms of tenure security, access to basic services, participation as well as livelihoods within the settlement. In this context, both male and female residents were invited to the consultation to engage on some of the challenges faced within the settlement. The overall purpose of the consultation is to inform a working paper on the implementation of the upgrading of informal settlements program (UISP) which seeks to upgrade informal settlements in situ.

The engagement highlighted that men and women have inherently different experiences of essential services, division of household labour as well as tenure security, re-enforcing the importance of gender responsive implementation of housing related policies and programs. For example, in terms of services, the need for adequate toilets and running water are inherently gendered.  Pit latrine toilets present a greater health risk to women. Differences such as these need to be acknowledged to ensure that the dignity, privacy and safety of all residents are upheld throughout the upgrading process. The consultation also illuminated the need for recognition of the value of unpaid care work done by women for the benefit of their households and communities. Additionally, rights relating to areas of employment such as domestic work, which are overwhelmingly done by women, were brought to the forefront of the discussion.

Women participants expressed the need for more spaces dedicated  exclusively to women’s issues and the benefit in recognizing the universal nature of some of the challenges they experience in their day to day lives.

The consultation formed part of the Women’s Spaces project, which is executed by Rooftops Cananda Abri International, through the support of the Government of Canada via Global Affairs Canada. 

 Slovo consult  IVY 3562  Slovo consult III Slovo Consult IV 

[ADVOCACY] SERI takes part in the Abahlali baseMjondolo and ESCR-Net Social Movement Gathering (24 February 2023).

Zikode escr net

From 7 to 11 February 2023, SERI's Edward Molopi and Thato Masiangoako participated in a social movement gathering hosted by Abahlali baseMjondolo and International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net).

Ed_writing_escr-net.jpgThe gathering was hosted in Durban and brought together social movement activists and leaders from the continent and across the globe. On the opening of the dialogue, attendants were welcomed by Abahlali baseMjondolo president S'bu Zikode, SERI executive director Nomzamo Zondo and ESCR-Net executive director Chris Grove. The opening also included performances by Abahlali baseMjondolo's Women's Choir and the Internationale by eKhenana residents.

The social movement dialogue included political education sessions led by Abahlali baseMjondolo as well as discussions about the ESCR-Net Common Charter for collective struggle and core principles shared by network members; how different social movements have built alternatives and developed solutions to the various challenges they face; how the different social movements have dealt with increasing criminalisation and repression; areas of possible collaboration and plans for the future.

The dialogue concluded with a solidarity visit to Abahlali's eKhenana Commune in Cato Manor where attendants learned more about the commune, its different communal projects and were able to share gifts of solidarity from their respective countries with the commune.

Group pic ekhenana