At 9h30 on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2017, families of the mineworkers killed at Marikana, mineworkers and members of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), with the support of the Marikana Support Campaign, will gather in Slovo Park to commemorate the Sharpeville and Marikana massacres.
The event will include a screening of Miners Shot Down and the launch of a new SERI short film, Bringing the Truth Home. Bringing the Truth Home highlights the pain and struggles of mineworkers and the victims’ families in the wake of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry report, which was released in June 2015. These screenings will be followed by discussions between the SPCDF and representatives of the mineworkers and the victims’ families.
The event kick starts a week-long campaign to raise awareness about the slow progress of the state and Lonmin in ensuring that there is justice for the victims of Marikana. The victims’ families have emphasised the depth of the harms done to themselves as dependants and the social fabric in their communities more broadly.
This week-long campaign will conclude on 24 March 2017, which also marks the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. On this day, SERI will launch a web-archive which brings together a comprehensive set of exhibits and transcripts from the Farlam Commission in a single, easily navigable and freely accessible location.
On Wednesday 22 March 2017 from 10:30 to 12:30, SERI, in partnership with the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF), is launching a new resource guide for informal traders in Johannesburg. The launch will take place at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (corner of President Street and Harrison Street, Johannesburg). The resource guide is called Informal Trade in Johannesburg: Your Rights.
Informal traders make a living in hostile environments, and local governments do not protect the rights of people making a living informally in the same way that they do those working in the formal sector. Despite this, informal traders have found novel ways to hold local authorities to account. If traders are aware of their rights and how to protect them, they are better placed to resist illegal harassment and clamp downs on their businesses.
Informal Trade in Johannesburg: Your Rights is a resource guide for informal traders making a living in Johannesburg which spells out what their rights are, and what avenues are available to ensure those rights are protected.
Last week, Premier Helen Zille wrote an op-ed in the Daily Maverick, where she argued that "as word gets out that a piece of land is earmarked for affordable or free housing, land invasion looms" and that "it does not take long for word to get around that people who wait their turn and play by the rules are likely to lose out every time. And it does not take long for land owners, who want the state to pay top dollar for land they would otherwise have battled to sell, to encourage occupation."
SERI's Dennis Webster and Ndifuna Ukwazi's have responded to the premier today. They suggest that:
"Occupations are not simply the outcome of “word going around”. These are desperate actions, yes. But, they are equally rational responses to the structural inequality which excludes poor black people from housing opportunities. At the sharp end of these features of the economy and property market comes eviction, which leaves thousands of people with no other option but to occupy vacant land elsewhere. These features include rapid urbanisation, driven by the economic opportunities of towns and cities; private sector capture of prime land; over-population in existing informal settlements whose boundaries are violently enforced by the ALIU; a housing shortage conflated by huge yearly shortfalls in delivery; the mass unemployment borne from peripheral existence and economic exclusion from the city, coupled with inflated rental prices for the most basic backyard dwellings. These processes culminate in overcrowding and rising rents in the few available housing options (backyard shacks, for instance), which in turn results in eviction. People do not spontaneously decide to occupy land. They are coerced into it."
Late last week the Labour Appeal Court brought farmers and farm workers into the fold of the Labour Relations Act, and impressed on farmers to be consistent in the way in which they exert discipline in the workplace and also to engage in corrective discipline where this is appropriate as opposed to dismissals. SERI represented Mr Andries Swartz in the matter. A Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) member, Mr Swartz was dismissed in 2013 due to misconduct following a disciplinary hearing.
Mr Swartz’s dismissal followed a disciplinary hearing which found Mr Swartz guilty of misconduct and recommended his dismissal. He approached the CCMA which issued an arbitration award in his favour stating that the sanction of dismissal was too harsh and substantively unfair taking into account his clean disciplinary record. The CCMA also found that Mr Swartz's employer, Mr Rossouw, did not apply the same standard of rule to other employees involved in similar situations. Mr Swartz was ordered to report for duty on 5 August 2013 and it was ordered that he should be retrospectively re-instated from the date of the dismissal.
Mr Swartz reported for duty but was denied access to the workplace and told by Mr Rossouw to go back home. CSAAWU tried to negotiate on his behalf, even presenting Mr Rossouw with the award, but without success. Mr Rossouw took the award on review to the Labour Court, where it was dismissed. In March 2014, Mr Rossouw applied for leave to appeal against the judgment in the Labour Court, and was granted leave to appeal to the Labour Appeal Court.
The Labour Appeal Court dismissed the appeal with costs on 2 March 2017.
Effectively, this means that Mr Swartz must be reinstated immediately. In finding for Mr Swartz, the Labour Appeal Court reasoned that the CCMA’s arbitration award was not unreasonable. It found that the employer did not always dismiss employees in similar situations.