On Thursday 27 September SERI Researcher, Kelebogile Khunou participated as a panelist at Solidarity Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights’ workshop on Worker Rights in Southern Africa. The panel discussion titled, “Right to Work and Precarious Workers” explored the specific challenges faced by migrant workers, such as the casualization of migrant workers, their ability to vindicate their rights in the workplace, inter-workplace xenophobia as well as the proposal that the right to work be taken away from asylum seekers.
Kelebogile spoke on the experience public interest legal services organisations have had representing informal traders many of whom are migrant workers. Her presentation, based on SERI and the South African Local Government Association’s publication entitled, “Informal Trade in South Africa: Legislation, Case Law and Recommendations for Local Government” focused on court judgments handed down by South African Courts in relation to the rights of informal traders. She highlighted the Constitutional Court’s judgment in South African Informal Trader’s Forum v City of Johannesburg in which the Court linked the right to trade with the right to human dignity in the Constitution, stating, “… the ability of people to earn money and support themselves and their families is an important component of the right to human dignity. Without it (informal traders) faced ‘humiliation and degradation’”.
Kelebogile further spoke about the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment in Somali Association v Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism which found that the informal traders, as refugees in South Africa, enjoy the protection of the constitutional right to human dignity afforded to “everyone” in the Constitution and recognised that the right to dignity requires that traders should be able to earn an income, irrespective of whether it is “wage-earning employment” or “self-employment”, as it ensures that traders are afforded the “ability to live without positive humiliation and degradation”.