On Thursday, 13 February, SERI was invited by the Informal Settlements Network (ISN) to give a presentation on housing and evictions law in South Africa. The meeting, hosted in the Kliptown Informal Settlement, was attended by 20 ISN members and leaders of informal settlements in Gauteng and formed part of the ISN’s annual strategic meeting and community engagement.
SERI presented on resisting evictions and legal principles contained in the Constitution. The presentation provided participants with insight on how to use the Constitution and legislation such as the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 ("PIE Act") to challenge illegal evictions. The presentation was offered by SERI research and advocacy officer, Edward Molopi.
On 20 February 2019, SERI published a new short film on South Africa’s advocates for change. The film showcases the critical role played by human rights lawyers in South Africa and the importance of training highly skilled public interest lawyers to keep the promise of our constitutional democracy.
It features SERI’s annual advocacy training programme, which has been operated annually for four years. The programme is a partnership between the Bertha Foundation, SERI and City University, London to provide quality training in court advocacy to young human rights lawyers in South Africa free of charge.
The training programme is a unique and critically important practical skills programme that supplies South African public interest legal practitioners with essential courtroom skills to enable them to provide better legal representation to the very poor and vulnerable people they work with across a wide range of different human rights work. In this way, SERI, the Bertha Foundation and City, University of London hope to contribute to the development and strengthening of well-trained, professional advocates working on public interest law.
Together they are carrying forward the struggle for justice, helping people to assert their dignity no matter what their circumstances.
The film was produced by Ilya Melnikov, a film student at City University, London; and directed by Nikki Walsh, a senior lecturer at City University, London
On Tuesday, 19 February 2019, SERI argued an application in the Constitutional Court, on behalf of General Alfred Moyo, to have section 1(1)(b) of The Intimidation Act72 of 1982 declared unconstitutional.
The case emanates from a criminal charge laid against General Moyo after an attempt by him and other residents of the Makause Community Development Forum (Macodefo), a community-based organisation in Makause informal settlement, to hold a march protesting against police brutality in Primrose, Germiston in 2012.
SERI, on behalf of General Moyo, have consistently argued that section 1(1)(b) of The Intimidation Act 72 of 1982 is unconstitutional as it criminalises any speech or conduct which creates a state of fear in the person towards whom the speech or conduct is directed. This drastically limits the right to freedom of expression found in s16 of the Constitution.
The matter was heard on appeal from the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) which declared s1 (2) of the Act invalid, but held that s1(1)(b) was constitutionally compliant.
SERI argued that the purpose of the provision has been consistently misinterpreted by the courts which, incorrectly limited the right to freedom of expression. One of the issues recognised by the SCA was the broad language used in s1(1)(b). It believed to have remedied this issue by narrowing the interpretation of the section by “reading in” the fact that for a sense of fear to be actionable under s1(1)(b) it had to be imminent. However, SERI argued that the breadth of the language in the provision caters to a whole range of potential fears to an individual, their property, livelihoods and to third parties. If the section was limited in this way it would, in many justified situations, render the provision powerless.
SERI also argued that the section was being applied to situations which were not intended by the legislature. It was submitted, that the way in which the SCA interpreted s1(1)(b) went beyond the scope originally intended by the legislature. The SCA advocated for the broad definition of the section on the basis that it allowed the protection of s1(1)(b) to be extended to crimes such as cyber-bullying, stalking and harassment. SERI argued that not only are these offences protected by other pieces of legislation but also that stretching the section in this way defeated its purpose and again, unjustly limits the right to freedom of expression.
The pending outcome of the judgement will serve to clarify whether s1(1)(b) will continue to be considered constitutionally valid. This brings into question whether or not a person can be arrested and criminally charged for speech or publication which induces fear in another, for their own safety or the safety of their property or that of a third party.
On Wednesday, the Daily Maverick published an op-ed by SERI candidate attorney Khululiwe Bhengu which considers an upcoming court challenge by Johannesburg inner city residents against police raids conducted at the behest of the Minister of Police and the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, since June 2017. The op-ed considers the unlawfulness of the raids and negative effects they have had on the residents.
Bhengu argues that “far from being a way to eliminate crime, as argued and maintained by the City of Johannesburg, raids on inner-city buildings that are seen as derelict and over-run by illegal immigrants have disproportionately targeted the poor and vulnerable residents of the city.”
Read the full op-ed here.
On Friday 8 February 2019, SERI’s Lauren Royston, Maanda Makwarela and Kelebogile Aplane participated in a stakeholder roundtable on Urban Land and Human Settlements, Spatial Strategies, Property Markets, Land Governance, Development and Administration. The meeting was hosted by the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform, the South African Cities Network and the National Planning Commission.
The ten-member Expert Advisory Panel, which comprises farmers, lawyers, agricultural economists and academics, was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to provide the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform with a unified policy perspective on land reform in respect of restitution, redistribution and tenure reform.
The roundtable was convened to provide stakeholders to analyse, debate and recommend policy positions and legislative proposals on how to develop modalities for an effective land reform process. Recommendations from the roundtable will be included in the Panel’s report to the President in March 2019.