On 18 February 2021, SERI will be in the Constitutional Court representing the residents of the Winnie Mandela informal settlement in an application to seek constitutional damages for ongoing breach of their constitutional rights of access to adequate housing.
Over three years ago, the High Court ordered Ekurhuleni Municipality to build houses for 133 informal settlement residents whose subsidised RDP units had been stolen from them. The residents have decided to sue the Ekurhuleni Municipality for constitutional damages, after the municipality missed a court-ordered deadline to replace the residents’ stolen houses. SERI has taken a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) not to award constitutional damages to the Constitutional Court and is seeking R5,000 per resident for every month that the municipality failed to provide them with the houses from 30 June 2019.
On 28 January 2021, SERI’s Alana Potter joined a press conference for the #PayTheGrants Campaign calling for the extension and increase of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grants to at least R585-00 in line with the food poverty line. The press conference was hosted by Black Sash, C19 People’s Coalition Cash Transfers Working Group and the Institute of Economic Justice (IEJ). Potter spoke alongside affected grant claimants, Zwelinzima Vavi, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, and social justice activists.
The #PayTheGrants Campaign joint statement calls for:
In SERI’s statement, Alana spoke, in support of the joint statement, about the critical importance of ensuring that there is a continuation and increase of unconditional cash transfers to people as a bridge to a basic income grant. Given the devastating impact the pandemic has had the livelihoods of informal and precarious workers, Alana argued that the cash grant was vital for ensuring that people do not go hungry because they would ensure that local markets and informal traders can start trading again.
The informal sector is critical in generating livelihoods, providing food security, and for reducing poverty. Informal traders, for example, do not only make food accessible, but they also maximise economic and ownership opportunities, creating multiplier effects into local communities they are part of.
Alana noted that civil society and a range of CSOs have mobilised to generate valuable evidence advocating for strengthening the informal economy by:
Dineo Phalane joined SERI in 2021 as a Candidate Attorney. Prior to this, Dineo worked as a field worker on numerous SERI cases and projects since 2018. She holds BA (Political Studies and Philosophy) and LLB degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). During her time at Wits she served in the Law School Council subcommittee as well as the Student Representative Council subcommittee. Dineo’s growing interest in the effective recognition and implementation human rights was sparked by her own lived reality and her exposure to SERI’s work.
Tebogo joined SERI as a Candidate Attorney in 2021 after having previously worked as a Research Intern in July 2020. She holds a BA Law and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Human rights Advocacy and Litigation at the same university. She also has interests in pursuing an LLM looking into the impact of service delivery cases in addressing the harsh reality that is faced by the majority black population in South Africa.
In it we present a few highlights from our work since our last newsletter in September. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, SERI continues to embolden individuals, social movements and CBOs to use legal and research support to exercise their rights and to inform pro-poor government policy and practice.
In November, the Constitutional Court handed down a ground-breaking judgment ending the exclusion of domestic workers from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993 (COIDA). Also in November, SERI represented inner-city Johannesburg residents in the Constitutional Court, challenging a part of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 that allowed for warrantless raids that were conducted on their homes. SERI also appeared before the Western Cape High Court in November on behalf of Abahlali baseMjondolo who intervened as amicus curiae in a matter challenging the City of Cape Town's use of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit to conduct unlawful evictions. In September, the Grahamstown High Court granted Yolanda Dyantyi leave to appeal on the grounds that her being denied a right to legal representation during her disciplinary hearing at Rhodes University does have merit.
We launched four case studies documenting lessons and experiences in water rights claiming in South Africa and partnered with the Water Integrity Network (WIN) to launch a report on human rights and water integrity that considers implications for informal settlement water and sanitation. Together with Lawyers for Human Rights, SERI made a submission to the Gauteng Provincial Government on its draft Township Economic Development Bill.
Download the full newsletter here.
SERI worked with the Black Sash to produce a factsheet for domestic workers, paralegals and community advice offices to provide them with information about the Mahlangu v Minister of Labour matter, in which domestic workers successfully challenged their exclusion from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA) previously known as Workmen’s Compensation.
On 19 November 2020 the Constitutional Court handed down a ground-breaking judgment on the Mahlangu matter, declaring the constitutional invalidity of section 1(xix)(v) of COIDA which excluded domestic workers employed in private households from the definition of "employee". This exclusion precluded domestic workers from claiming from the Compensation Fund for work-related injuries, illnesses or death. Significantly, the Court ruled that the order of constitutional invalidity is to have immediate and retrospective effect from 27 April 1994.
The factsheet explains how COIDA works, summarises the facts of the court case and explains the implications of the judgment for domestic workers.