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[PRESS STATEMENT] SERI welcomes the ruling on the recusal of Commissioner Makhubela by the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry into Usindiso Building (20 December 2023).

Commission rulingOn Wednesday, 20 December 2023, the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry into the Usindiso Building fire made a ruling recusing Commissioner Adv. Thulani Makhubela from his role within the Commission. The decision came after the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) and the Inner City Federation lodged an application on 28 October 2023, requesting the recusal of Commissioner Makhubela. The basis for this application was a reasonable apprehension of bias against him due to his sustained public support for, and association with, Operation Dudula, a group founded on xenophobic rhetoric.

The application was fully supported by the residents of Usindiso with the Commission’s Evidence Leaders confirming that it is justified considering the undisputed allegations made.

In the ruling, the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, Justice Sisi Khampepe, found that: 

“Commissioner Makhubela has for the past six years on social media expressed a firm view conveying enmity and antipathy towards foreign nationals in general and their undesirability in the City [of Johannesburg] and the country” in that “foreign nationals are responsible for societal ills besetting the country including rampant crime and unemployment.”

The Chairperson was satisfied that Commissioner Makhubela’s sustained public support for, and association with, Operation Dudula, compromised his ability to impartially adjudicate in the Commission's work. Consequently, the Chairperson concluded that there exists a genuine apprehension that Commissioner Makhubela would not approach issues involving foreign nationals and Operation Dudula with an impartial mind, considering his publicly expressed views.

SERI welcomes the Commission's ruling on the recusal of Commissioner Makhubela. The Commission was established by the Gauteng Premier, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, to inquire into the circumstances of the 31 August 2023 fire that caused the deaths of over 70 people and left hundreds more injured and destitute, and to determine, among others, who should be held responsible for the deaths and injuries of those affected by the fire.  

Nomzamo Zondo, executive director of SERI, remarked, 

“We welcome the ruling of the Commission as we believe Commissioner Makhubela’s recusal will ensure the Commission operates fairly, impartially, and in accordance with its Terms of Reference and the rule of law.”

Access the Commission’s ruling here.

Contact details:  

  • Nomzamo Zondo, SERI executive director: Nomzamo[at]seri-sa.org / 071 301 9676
  • Edward Molopi, SERI senior communications and advocacy officer: Edward[at]seri-sa.org / 082 590 9638 

ENDS

[ADVOCACY] Three years after Mahlangu: Taking stock of domestic work in South Africa (1 December 2023).

Mahlangu Event Nov2023 panelOn 22 November 2023, SERI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) hosted a commemorative dialogue entitled "Three Years after Mahlangu: Taking Stock of Domestic Work in South Africa". The event marked the third anniversary of the landmark Constitutional Court judgment in the matter Mahlangu v Minister of Labour. In November 2020, the Court declared the constitutional invalidity of section 1(xix)(v) of COIDA, which excluded domestic workers employed in private households from the definition of "employee". Significantly, the Court also ruled that domestic workers and dependants who have experienced work-related injuries, diseases or death as far back as 27 April 1994 are also able to submit claims.

The dialogues aim to bring together government, civil society organisations representing domestic workers and employers, and members of the public to discuss key issues in the sector and collectively explore solutions. The focus of this dialogue was to reflect on why there had been less than twenty claims from domestic workers three years after the victorious judgment.

The event comprised a keynote address by former acting Judge of the Constitutional Court Margaret Victor, who penned the majority judgment in the Sylvia Mahlangu case. This was followed by inputs from a panel of speakers, namely: Maggie Mthombeni (Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance), Jane Barret (Women in Informal Employment: Globalising & Organising), and former Constitutional Court Justice Zak Yakoob. Amandla.mobi founding executive director and civic activist, Koketso Moeti, facilitated the conversation. Unfortunately, the Compensation Fund was unable to join the panel of speakers.

The event began with welcome and opening remarks from NMF’s Head of Dialogue & Advocacy, Sumaya Hendricks. Sumaya emphasized the importance of going beyond the dialogues and the need to see meaningful progress in improving the actual working conditions for domestic workers. Koketso Moeti followed the opening will a call for a moment of reflection about how domestic workers are treated in South Africa and what can we do to protect and promote the rights of domestic workers by making use of SERI’s Domestic Workers’ guides. Before handing over to the keynote speaker, Koketso stated –

We should normalize that even though your private household is personal, it is a place of labour for someone and therefore the very same things we expect at our workplaces should be granted to those who work in our homes”.

In Judge Margaret Victor's keynote address, she gave the history of the Mahlangu case and the tragedy that befell the late Maria Mahlangu, noting that her death had changed the rights of domestic workers in South Africa. She noted that the work domestic workers do is undervalued and not seen as “real” work, and  that domestic workers face a unique plight and discrimination at an intersectional level, domestic workers are discriminated in terms of race, sex, gender, class and nationality. She explained why intersectionality and the principle of Ubuntu were vital for penning the judgment.

Jane Barret remarked on the unacceptable gap between law and implementation when it comes to COIDA and the lack of domestic workers registration. Jane lamented on the lack of will on the part of domestic workers employers to register domestic workers for COIDA.

Maggie Mthombeni focused  on the plight of undocumented domestic workers who are vulnerable to abuse by their employers. Undocumented migrant domestic workers and South African domestic don’t not enjoy the benefits of COIDA because there is no penalty imposed for lack compliance by the employers.

Judge Zak Yacoob spoke about the importance of organizing and engaging people to rally behind the struggle of domestic workers. He further suggested a formation of a domestic workers network, where different organisations come together and work out a strategy to further the cause of domestic workers. This is a matter of urgency he emphasized. Lastly, Judge Zak Yacoob availed himself to be part of the people whom the different stakeholders like the Department of Labour, Compensation Fund, civil society actors, and domestic workers unions to engage for the advancement of domestic worker rights.

  • Read more about the Mahlangu case here.
  • Watch a recording of the event here.

 

[ADVOCACY] SERI and Abahlali's Women's League host a workshop to mark 16 Days of Activism against GBV (30 November 2023).

AbM SERI GBV and evictions workshop 26 NovOn Sunday, 26 November, SERI supported a workshop led by Abahlali baseMjondolo’s Women’s League. The workshop marked the start of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV) and was attended by approximately 26 women from the around Johannesburg area.

The motivation behind the workshop stemmed from the reality that despite the provisions of South Africa's Constitution, many people still face the threat of tenure security and unlawful evictions which exacerbates the vulnerability of women living in contexts lacking secure tenure. In terms of the scourge of gender-based violence, SERI's focus for the 16 Days of Activism has been to engage with women particularly on the issue of  GBV with a focus on the workplace, in light of SERI's work on domestic work. Many women find themselves vulnerable to sexual harassment and other forms of GBV both in the workplace and in the home.

In the workshop, SERI facilitated a session entitled, “How can you defend your land using the Constitution of South Africa”. Another session in the workshop was held on sexual harassment and gender-based violence both generally and in the workplace which was followed by a discussion among the workshop participants. This workshop took place as part of SERI's Women’s Spaces Project.

[ADVOCACY] SERI, Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance and Hlanganisa Community Fund host workshop on gender-based violence in the workplace for domestic workers (29 November 2023).

SERI IZWI Hlanganisa GBworkshop

As part of the SERI's Women’s Spaces Project, SERI, together with Izwi Domestic Worker Alliance and Hlanganisa Community Fund hosted an in-person workshop on gender-based violence (GBV) in the workplace on Saturday, 18 November 2023. The focus of the workshop was on the experiences of domestic workers who experience GBV in their place of employment.

The workshop was attended by 24 domestic workers from different areas and backgrounds including both the inner-city as well as informal settlements. The workshop aimed to facilitate meaningful discussion, spread awareness as well as to connect the domestic workers to reporting avenues and identifying more conspicuous forms of gender-based violence that domestic workers could find themselves vulnerable to when working in someone else’s home. The various sessions covered in the workshop were held on defining gender-based violence in the employment context, personal stories and experiences as well as where and how to report instances of GBV.

 

 

 

[ADVOCACY] SERI hosts urban agriculture workshop with Mazingira Institute (27 November 2023).

Mazingira Institute workshop

On 17 November 2023, SERI, in collaboration with the Mazingira Institute hosted a virtual training workshop on urban agriculture. The workshop forms part of SERI's work under the Women’s Spaces Project.

The workshop focused on crop production, and focused specifically on starting a successful vegetable garden. This session included training on skills for managing soil, systems of irrigation, and the use of organic pesticides as a cheaper alternative for managing plants and crops. The workshop was attended by 22 residents from Slovo Park Informal Settlement, the majority of whom were women.