Late last year, on 30 November, SERI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) co-hosted, “Two Years after Mahlangu: Taking Stock of Domestic Work in South Africa”. The event was held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, with approximately 94 people in attendance.
The event began with opening remarks by NMF’s CEO, Sello Hatang, and SERI’s executive director, Nomzamo Zondo. Sello reminded those in attendance of the purpose of the event- to take stock of the situation of domestic workers two years since the Mahlangu judgment in November 2020 and a year since the first dialogue organised by SERI and NMF. He highlighted the precarious working conditions faced by domestic workers in the present, which are deeply rooted in South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past, and related the story of his own mother who after 40 years of working as a domestic worker retired with nothing.
Nomzamo then provided context for the event, the background of the Mahlangu v Minister of Labour matter and brought those in attendance up to speed regarding the number of claims from domestic workers which have been processed by the Compensation Fund since the handing own of the judgment. In June 2022 only 7 claims had been received by the Fund and of the claims received only 5 had been accepted. The Fund also received 1677 registrations from employers of domestic workers, which translates to less than 1% of employers. Nomzamo concluded by thanking the Foundation for using its platform and the name of Nelson Mandela in the pursuit justice for domestic workers, whose issues are largely ignored by the media.
Seeham Samaai, director of the Women’s Legal Centre, provided the keynote address, which focused on the impact of the casualisation and feminisation of labour on vulnerable workers. Seeham stated,
“Black Women make up a large part of the poor and the working class. They are locked in cycles of poverty, they are bound to casual labour where they are paid the least, but work the longest hours. For women casualisation of labour impacts on the rights to organise, on the family life, as well as the vulnerability to sexual violence in the workplace. We recognise also that the impact of intersectionality on women's work experiences and acknowledge the struggles faced by all vulnerable workers, which includes farmworkers, migrant workers, domestic workers, sex workers, health workers, lesbian, bisexual, transgender women and women from both rural and urban areas”
The panel consisted of Pinky Mashiane (President, United Domestic Workers of South Africa), Chriscy Blouws (Attorney, Women’s Legal Centre), Nokuthula Sihlangu (Claim’s Director, Compensation Fund) and was facilitated by Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse (Black Womxn Caucus).The panellists made the following remarks:
- Although South Africa has progressive laws for domestic workers, these laws are not accessible.
- The use of an intersectional lens will give effect to substantive equality. The lived realities and context of domestic workers need to be considered in the drafting and implementation of laws.
- Non-compliance from employers remains a significant hurdle in realising the rights of domestic workers.
- Collaboration between the key stakeholders- government, employers and domestic worker organisations and other civil society actors, needs to be sustained.
- Watch the event here.
- Read more about the Mahlangu case here.
- Download the employers guide here.
- Read the press statement on the anniversary of the Mahlangu judgment here.