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[TRIBUTE] Domestic workers, activists and SERI community mourn the passing of domestic worker leader Myrtle Witbooi (18 January 2023).

Myrtle Witbooi

Photo: ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation)


The South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) and SERI mourn the passing of Myrtle Witbooi (31 August 1947- 16 January 2023), General Secretary of SADSAWU and Chair of the International Domestic Workers' Federation (IDWF). 

Myrtle's tireless efforts advocating for the rights of domestic workers span several decades, beginning in the 1960s when she herself was a domestic worker in Cape Town. Myrtle went on to co-found South African Domestic Workers Union in 1986, which called for fair labour standards for domestic workers such as living wages, unemployment insurance, workman's compensation, maternity benefits and sick pay.  

In recent years SADSAWU under Myrtle's leadership, successfully advocated for the inclusion of domestic workers in the Unemployment Insurance Act 63 of 2001 in 2003, and in 2020 played a pivotal role in the inclusion of domestic workers in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993, having taken on the role of second applicant in the Mahlangu v Minister of Labour matter. On the international stage, SADSAWU representatives participated in discussions on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention (Convention 189) and subsequently engaged the South African government on its ratification. 

Myrtle's passing is a major loss to her family, friends, the South African trade union movement and the global movement of domestic workers. 

[ADVOCACY] Two years after Mahlangu: Taking stock of domestic work in South Africa (16 January 2023).

Late last year, on 30 November, SERI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) co-hosted, “Two Years after Mahlangu: Taking Stock of Domestic Work in South Africa”. The event was held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, with approximately 94 people in attendance. 

The event began with opening remarks by NMF’s CEO, Sello Hatang, and SERI’s executive director, Nomzamo Zondo. Sello reminded those in attendance of the purpose of the event- to take stock of the situation of domestic workers two years since the Mahlangu judgment in November 2020 and a year since the first dialogue organised by SERI and NMF. He highlighted the precarious working conditions faced by domestic workers in the present, which are deeply rooted in South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past, and related the story of his own mother who after 40 years of working as a domestic worker retired with nothing. NZ Mahlangu Two Year

Nomzamo then provided context for the event, the background of the Mahlangu v Minister of Labour matter and brought those in attendance up to speed regarding the number of claims from domestic workers which have been processed by the Compensation Fund since the handing own of the judgment. In June 2022 only 7 claims had been received by the Fund and of the claims received only 5 had been accepted. The Fund also received 1677 registrations from employers of domestic workers, which translates to less than 1% of employers. Nomzamo concluded by thanking the Foundation for using its platform and the name of Nelson Mandela in the pursuit justice for domestic workers, whose issues are largely ignored by the media. 

Seeham Samaai, director of the Women’s Legal Centre, provided the keynote address, which focused on the impact of the casualisation and feminisation of labour on vulnerable workers. Seeham stated, 

“Black Women make up a large part of the poor and the working class. They are locked in cycles of poverty, they are bound to casual labour where they are paid the least, but work the longest hours. For women casualisation of labour impacts on the rights to organise, on the family life, as well as the vulnerability to sexual violence in the workplace. We recognise also that the impact of intersectionality on women's work experiences and acknowledge the struggles faced by all vulnerable workers, which includes farmworkers, migrant workers, domestic workers, sex workers, health workers, lesbian, bisexual, transgender women and women from both rural and urban areas”

The panel consisted of Pinky Mashiane (President, United Domestic Workers of South Africa), Chriscy Blouws (Attorney, Women’s Legal Centre), Nokuthula Sihlangu (Claim’s Director, Compensation Fund) and was facilitated by Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse (Black Womxn Caucus).The panellists made the following remarks:

  • Although South Africa has progressive laws for domestic workers, these laws are not accessible. 
  • The use of an intersectional lens will give effect to substantive equality. The lived realities and context of domestic workers need to be considered in the drafting and implementation of laws.
  • Non-compliance from employers remains a significant hurdle in realising the rights of domestic workers. 
  • Collaboration between the key stakeholders- government, employers and domestic worker organisations and other civil society actors, needs to be sustained.


 NMF Mahlangu 2022  NMF Mahlangu 2022  Mahlangu 2022 Audience


  • Watch the event here.
  • Read more about the Mahlangu case here.
  • Download the employers guide here.
  • Read the press statement on the anniversary of the Mahlangu judgment here.

[STAFF NEWS] SERI is delighted to welcome two new members to the litigation team (12 January 2023).

SERI is delighted to welcome Thando George and Zanele Kanya who both join us as Candidate Attorneys. 

Thando Zanele

Thando is a Canon Collins Educational Legal Assistance Trust Alumni and Friedrich- Ebert-Stiftung School on Social Democracy and Political Economy Alumni.  She has participated in the African Centre on Law and Legal Ethics training program which was facilitated by global law firm White & Case in Kigali, Rwanda. Thando holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree and Post Graduate Diploma in Human Rights Law from the University of Fort Hare. 

Previously, she worked as a Legal Researcher and Communications Officer at the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), in July 2021 she was elected to serve on the SJC’s Board. There, her research focused on gender justice and policing and criminal justice for people living in informal settlements.

Zanele holds a Bachelor of Arts BA (Political Studies and International Relations) and LLB degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand. Before joining SERI as a Candidate Attorney, she worked as a fieldworker in the organisation from August 2019 where she assisted in collecting and collating personal circumstances for active cases.  In October 2021 she was appointed as research assistant on a project documenting access to basic services in occupied building in the Johannesburg inner city. 

Zanele is a strong believer in active engagement and equitable access to the law and its use to transform society. She endeavours to use her talents to realise this change in communities.   

[NEWSLETTER] SERI's December 2022 Newsletter is out! (15 December 2022).


newsletter header 20222

This is SERI’s final newsletter for 2022. In it we present a few highlights from our work since our last newsletter was circulated in October.

In October, SERI welcomed a High Court judgment in the matter Ryckloff-Beleggings (Pty) Ltd v Ntombekhaya Bonkolo and 71 Respondents concerning the possible eviction of over 100 waste reclaimers. The High Court ordered the City of Johannesburg to provide the reclaimers with temporary accommodation that will allow them to continue to earn a living through waste reclaiming.

Also in October, on Abahlali baseMjondolo’s 17th birthday, SERI and Abahlali launched a new Community Practice Note (CPN) on the movement in eKhenana, Cato Manor. The CPN details the movement’s 17-year history and memorialises the 24 members it has lost to state-sanctioned and political violence, including three leaders from eKhenana. We also launched a new guide to assist street traders in eThekwini in December.

SERI also made a number of submissions on proposed pieces of legislation that would affect the current protections available to people who are landless.

View the full newsletter online here.

[STAFF NEWS] SERI is delighted to welcome two new members to the research team (14 December 2022).

SERI is delighted to welcome Matete Masola and Yongeza Mbimbi to the team. 


Matete Yongeza

Matete joins us as a research intern having previously worked as a fieldworker since November 2020. He holds a BA (Law) and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand. He is currently completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the same University. He previously served as a volunteering legal intern with Lawyers for Human Rights in the Refugee and Migrants programme before joining SERI. Matete has an interest in the advancement of women’s rights to access land, housing, and decent livelihood in informal settlements.

Yongeza joins us as a research intern. He holds a BA (Sociology and Anthropology) and LLB degrees from the University of Witwatersrand. Having majored in Sociology and Anthropology in his undergraduate studies, he possesses the socio-political and theoretical understandings of South Africa as a society. He understands law as a source and tool for public good, social order and to restructure society. Particularly with our history of Colonialism and Apartheid. Yongeza has a deep interest in Social Justice and Human Rights. His passion lies in advocating for the marginalised communities to have fair and equitable access to land, housing, basic services such as clean water and proper sanitation.