On 27 and 28 May 2013, SERI co-hosted a regional consultation in Johannesburg on "Security of Tenure for the Urban Poor", together with the Ford Foundation, the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik. The consultation was attended by government, civil society, academic and professional representatives from South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, Madagascar, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda.
During 2013, the Special Rapporteur is focusing on developing guidelines on security of tenure, specifically focused on the urban poor and in particular those living in informal settlements. By the end of 2013, she will submit to the UN Human Rights Council her report and recommendations, which will stem from the consultations and research conducted in 2013.
SERI's July 2013 newsletter is now available, with updates on:
A new working paper on community-based paralegals in South Africa has been published, entitled "To Whom Do The People Take Their Issues? The Contribution of Community-Based Paralegals to Access to Justice in South Africa". The paper was researched and written by SERI researcher Jackie Dugard and Kay Drage (previous SERI litigation intern) for The Justice and Development Working Paper Series.
The paper examines the role of paralegals in providing a crucial link to justice services and legal redress in South Africa, particularly for the rural poor. Through an analysis of twelve case studies of paralegal-assisted cases, the report identifies facilitating and hindering determinants of community advice office (CAO) functions at both the institutional and organization level.
On 14 June 2013, the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal handed down its ruling in the Jele case, finding that the charging of a "service charge" to tenants of a building in Hillbrow violates Regulation 13(1)(d) and (f) of the Gauteng Unfair Practices Regulations, and amounts to a profit which the landlord is not entitled to make (off electricity charges).
The Tribunal found that the City's electricity by-laws and the Electricity Regulation Act preclude the landlord from making a profit off electricity. In terms of the latter, the landlord would need to have a licence to trade in electricity, which it does not have. The landlord also raised the arguments that Regulation 13 does not apply because it is superseded by the tenants’ lease agreements, and that it is the electricity service provider to the tenants, not City Power, and hence is entitled to levy its own service charge in addition to City Power. The Tribunal unanimously rejected these arguments.
The Tribunal ruled that the landlord is interdicted from levying the charge in future, and ordered the landlord to repay to the tenants all the service charges levied against them since May 2009.
From 10 to 12 July 2013, the Third Annual Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) was held at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand. This is an annual event that brings together public interest legal practitioners and organisations, law students, paralegals, social movement leaders and legal academics to share and develop knowledge. PILG is organised through a coordinating committee consisting of Wits School of Law, SALC, CALS, LHR, Section 27, SERI, LRC, SLSJ and ProBono.Org.
Some of the topics explored at the 2013 PILG included: extractive industries; budgetary transparency and accountability; corporate obligations in respect of human rights; health and vulnerable populations; School Governing Bodies, school admissions policies and the right to education; customary law; Legal Practices Bill, community service and the ethics of legal representation; housing strategies post-Blue Moonlight; the criminal injustice system; addressing sexual violence in schools; community participation and mining development; using international law frameworks globally and domestically; disability law and the rights of people with disabilities; and informal settlement upgrading.