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[ADVOCACY] SERI participates in Pan Africanism Today's Dilemmas of Humanity conference (11 August 2023).

PAT conferenceFrom 17 – 20 July 2023, SERI participated in the ‘Dilemmas of Humanity: Pan African Dialogues to Build Socialism’ conference, hosted by Hosted by Pan Africanism Today (PAT) in Bela Bela. The conference is part of the Dilemmas of Humanity process which is aimed at the “transformation of society and revolutionary change.” It is one of several regional conferences ahead of the III International Dilemmas of Humanity Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa in October.  It brought together over 200 delegates from 40 organisations. countries, including Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), the Socialist Party (SP) of Zambia, the Workers’ Democratic Way party from Morocco, and Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima (MVIWATA) from Tanzania. 

The opening ceremony was addressed by Abahlali baseMjondolo president, S’bu Zikode and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) General Secretary, Irvin Jim. 

Addressing the opening ceremony Zikode emphasised the need for movements to build their power and defend their gains, as even partial victories would invite attacks by those in power. 

The conference was divided into commissions, each with a mandate to deliberate upon a particular theme and draft a concrete plan of action which will be adopted in the form of a resolution on the final day. The commissions included themes of food sovereignty and agroecology, gender struggles against patriarchy, and urban struggles for housing.

  • Download the conference declaration here

[ADVOCACY] SERI participates in roundtable discussion on the coalition government in Gauteng (11 August 2023).

TM CoGTA coalition govt roundtable 20July2023 2On 20 July 2023, SERI participated in a roundtable discussion on the future of coalition government in Gauteng province, hosted by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature's Portfolio Committee on CoGTA, E-Government, Research & Development. The purpose of the roundtable discussion was to share some of the key findings from a study commissioned by CoGTA on the impact of coalition governments in municipalities in Gauteng. The roundtable also sought to reflect on some of the issues affecting the stability of coalition governments, discuss the future of coalition-governed municipalities, and to hear from the invited stakeholders, of which SERI was one.

The roundtable included presentations from Mzi Khumalo, Gauteng CoGTA MEC and Dr Darion Barclay, Gauteng CoGTA HoD who both shard some of the key findings and potential implications from the CoGTA commissioned study on coalition government in Gauteng. Sello Marokane from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA); Kevin Allan from Municipal IQ, Thembani Mkhize from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO); and Wandile Ngcaweni of Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) all shared their reflections on the issue of coalitions, the impact of instability on service delivery, possible strategies for establishing stable coalition governments, what the last local government election results show about voters and the direction of local government politics.

As part of the stakeholder remarks, SERI's Thato Masiangoako reflected on SERI's experiences of local government instability and its impact on the work that SERI does with communities and groups to access their socio-economic rights. She also shared some of the main concerns of a recently formed convening of local governance where SERI works alongside various other NGOs equally concerned with the impact of deteriorating local government. These concerns include:

  1. Culture and values of officials in local government and concerns with leadership, particularly unethical leadership;
  2. Municipal budgeting and public participation, in that there are poor public participation approaches and dysfunctional public participation units if they exist; and
  3. Party political interference with local government, which includes a concern with the lack of accountability systems and mechanisms and how political parties can wield an undue influence.

 

  • Presentations can be accessed here.
  • A streamed recording of the discussion can be accessed here.

 

[PRESS STATEMENT] 11 years later: The victims of the Marikana Massacre still await justice (10 August 2023).

Presser Marikana 11th anniversary scrshtsOn 10 August 2012, mineworkers at what was then the Lonmin plc platinum mine, now Sibanye Stillwater, gathered to bring their grievances about their wages and working conditions to the attention of the mine’s management. Before the miners could reach Lonmin’s offices, they were stopped by the South African Police Service and the mine’s security guards. Despite their attempts to engage with management, Lonmin refused to communicate with the miners outside of the official trade union channels, which was the majority trade union, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at the time. Consequently, the miners decided to go on strike. Over the days that followed, 44 people would be killed including 34 miners who were shot and killed by the police on 16 August 2012 – a day now remembered as the Marikana Massacre.

Since 2012, SERI has represented 36 families of the miners killed on 13 and 16 August and supported their pursuit for justice and accountability. In 2015, the families, totalling 320 claimants, launched their civil claim seeking an apology from government and damages for loss of support, medical expenses, general damages and constitutional damages. The State has paid out settlements for loss of support claims for 34 of the 36 families, with payments made between August 2018 and September 2019.

In 2019, SERI received an offer for loss of support for the 35th family but this excluded a family member and is yet to be finalised. Concerning the 36th family, the State’s position is that it would not compensate the family for loss of support as it believes that the deceased miner did not have a duty to support his unemployed siblings and their children.

Regarding criminal justice, only nine police officers have been prosecuted to date. Four police officers were charged with crimes relating to defeating the ends of justice and for concealing the circumstances around the death of Mr Motiso Otsile van Wyk Sagalala. In 2021, all four officers, including former North West Deputy Police Commissioner Major General William Mpembe, were acquitted.

Mpembe and five other officers are currently standing trial for the events that occurred on 13 August 2012 in which three mineworkers and two police officers were killed. The officers have been charged with the death of mineworker Mr Pumzile Sokanyile. Mpembe is also standing trial for the deaths of mineworkers Mr Semi Jokanisi, Mr Thembelakhe Mati and police officers Warrant Officer Tsietsi Hendrik Monene, and Warrant Officer Sello Ronnie Lepaauku. Mpembe is further charged with the attempted murders of six surviving mineworkers and one police officer. This trial commenced in May 2021 and is yet to conclude. All this time the families whose loved ones were killed on 13 and 16 August 2012 continue to bear the brunt of delayed justice through slow-paced prosecutions.

Over the past 11 years, neither former President Jacob Zuma nor President Cyril Ramaphosa have ever visited the families to tender an apology for the loss of their loved ones. In February 2018 (during the State of the Nation address) and in April 2018 (at the funeral of Winnie Mandela), President Cyril Ramaphosa repeated a promise he made to visit the widows and families and to apologise to them, however, that is yet to take place. Instead, the State has denied that the Families are legally entitled to the apology and dragged its feet in terms of compensatory redress, by having only settled on one of the five areas for compensation – loss of support, and accountability while at the same time, the state has shouldered the cost of the legal defence of police officers standing trial, at times affording individuals separate legal teams. For example, the legal costs of former Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s litigation challenging the findings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry were reported to have reached R5,5 million in August 2021. In contrast, the families have collectively been represented by three senior state prosecutors.

While the state has claimed Marikana as a dark day in South Africa’s history, it has failed to demonstrate a full appreciation of what the massacre has cost the families and what they have continued to suffer over the years. Under international law, the state has failed to uphold the victims’ and survivors’ rights to equal and effective access to justice, and their rights to adequate and prompt reparation for the harm suffered.

Some of the families suffered further deaths in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, including a family that suffered a miscarriage, and another whose mother of a deceased miner collapsed and died at the news of the massacre, for example. Over the years, three families each lost a loved one to suicide relating to the trauma caused by the massacre, while other families with elderly members have also lost loved ones with the passage of time. Many of the children whose parents were killed at Marikana are now adults and have had to contend with what their loss has meant for their childhood and how it continues to shape their lives.

We call on the South African government to prioritise the victims of the Marikana massacre by apologising to the families and survivors of the massacre. We call on the mine that acquired Lonmin, Sibanye Stillwaters, to play its role in bringing justice to the families by acknowledging the role that the mine played in the massacre and to take sincere steps to assist the families in their search for healing by engaging in a victim-centred and led reparatory initiative. We call on the state to take the steps to prosecute those responsible for the massacre ranging from state officials to representatives of the mine who are accused of being involved. Finally, we also call on the state to expedite finalising all outstanding compensatory claims.

Contact details: 

  • Asenati Tukela, SERI attorney: Asenati[at]seri-sa.org
  • Thato Masiangoako, SERI researcher: Thato[at]seri-sa.org

 

Download the statement here.

[WORKSHOP] SERI collaborates of the the Abahlali baseMjondolo’s Women’s League to host a women's spaces workshop on housing and family law (8 August 2023).

On Sunday 23 July, SERI collaborated with the Abahlali baseMjondolo’s Women’s League in a day long workshop in Tembisa as part of the Women's Spaces project. The purpose of the workshop was to inform participants of their rights under the constitution and legislation both in terms of housing as well as family law.  The workshop was attended by approximately 50 women from both Tembisa and Germiston. 

Over the course of the day, sessions  were hosted on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) as well as introduction to marital regimes. Further sessions were held on the patriarchy as well as the role of women in the movement.  

Although both the Constitution as well as the PIE act protect the rights of unlawful occupiers by requiring that an eviction order is granted by the courts, many occupiers, particularly those in informal settlements find themselves at the receiving end of unlawful demolitions and other means of constructive evictions. For many women, these threats to tenure security are compounded because of their gender, and therefore may be vulnerable to eviction from both outside forces as well as eviction from within the household itself. 

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[ADVOCACY] SERI participates in Solidarity Centre's Domestic Worker Litigation Exchange (7 August 2023).

DW_litigation_exchange.jpegFrom 17-19 July 2023, SERI participated in a Domestic Worker Litigation Exchange organised by Solidarity Center in Rosebank, Johannesburg. The Exchange was organised to introduce South African public interest legal organisations to human rights lawyers from Ethiopia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe, who want to bring impact litigation on domestic worker rights in their respective countries. The exchange provided an opportunity for the lawyers to engage with South African public interest legal organisations and learn about key cases from South Africa and the region. The exchange provided an opportunity to discuss legal approaches, strategies, arguments that have worked and might be successfully imported to other contexts; and correspondingly, strategies that did not work, and should be avoided.

SERI’s contribution to the exchange was a reflection on the Mahlangu v Minister of Labour matter. SERI gave a presentation on the interweaving of the strategies of litigation, research and advocacy in Mahlangu. The presentation started with insights of the advocacy and organising by domestic worker unions for inclusion in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), by Eunice Dhladhla, Assistant secretary general of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU).  Pinky Mashiane, president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa provided a narrative of the story of the Mahlangu family and their struggle for justice. SER's presentation highlighted the importance of the use of advocacy and research as an accompaniment to litigation, and revealed the challenges regarding the implementation of the Mahlangu judgment.

Chriscy Blauws of Women’s Legal Centre presented on their amicus intervention in the case of Mahlangu. She spoke about the importance of using an intersectional and feminist lens in litigation to achieve feminist jurisprudence that places the lived reality of black women at the forefront and to achieve substantive equality. She highlighted that the exclusion of domestic workers from COIDA discriminated against black women and violated a number of their constitutional rights as contained in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, namely their rights to equality, dignity and social security. These exclusions reinforced historical and apartheid practices and is contradictory to the purpose and spirit of the Constitution. To round off the presentations on the Mahlangu judgment, the litigation exchange greatly benefitted from a presentation by Judge Margret Victor, who wrote the majority judgment in Mahlangu, who highlighted domestic workers’ right to equality and dignity, the importance of applying an intersectional lens and South Africa’s international and regional obligations affecting the case. 

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The 3-day programme included robust conversations on several themes, including, domestic work and the platform economy, feminist legal methods, the use of international and regional human rights instruments in litigation, litigation on gender based violence and harassment at work. Organisations involved in the exchange included SERI, Women’s Legal Centre, Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa, University of Johannesburg, CENTROW, Institute for Economic Justice, International Commission of Jurists, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Lawyers for Human Rights, Southern Africa Litigation Center, and Amnesty International. Several academic experts and advocates also contributed to the programme.