Logo FL trans smallfacebook icontwitter iconyoutube icon

[PRESS STATEMENT] SERI condemns police use of excessive force against Slovo Park protestors (1 August 2023).

SERI Presser SlovoPark protest combinedSERI condemns the indiscriminate violence and excessive force used by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the ongoing protest in Slovo Park. On 31 July 2023, SERI learned that 16-year-old Karabo Chaka was killed after he was allegedly shot in the back of the head by the police in the Slovo Park informal settlement in the south of Johannesburg. This incident occurred during the community’s protest to draw attention to the lack of water and sanitation delivery in the settlement and a stalled informal settlement upgrading process. As part of the protest, residents blocked the N12 highway and in response, the police resorted to firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the informal settlement and pursuing fleeing protesters.

Karabo is yet another victim of violent policing by SAPS. While the specific details surrounding Karabo’s death remain unclear, we believe that it is further evidence of the police’s reliance on indiscriminate and deadly force, and a failure to facilitate protest through means such as communication, negotiation, and de-escalation.

While the context of protest is complex and dynamic, the police should be responding to protests with care for both protestors and surrounding communities and individuals who may not be a part of the protest. According to SAPS directives, the police are required to avoid the use of force “at all costs” and “must display the highest degree of tolerance”. If it is determined that the use of force is unavoidable, then the degree of force used must be proportional to the circumstances and threats present. This would require the police to act in a manner that is responsible with an awareness of their duty to protect life and prevent damage to property. Only a commander may instruct the use of any force and the use of rubber bullets in crowd management to disperse is only to be used in “extreme circumstances”.

The Slovo Park protest was a long-considered option borne out of community frustration with other avenues of engagement. The context is that in 2016, the High Court ordered the City of Johannesburg to commence the process prescribed in the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) for the upgrading of the Slovo Park settlement.  However, seven years since the Melani judgment, apart from the partial electrification of the settlement in 2018, access to basic services in Slovo Park is still lacking leading  to the death of several minors.

Since the judgment, the community of Slovo Park has engaged with the City of Johannesburg through the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF), which represents the community in the upgrading process via an upgrading task team with the relevant parties. In these engagements, they have also shared the deaths of at least two children who died after falling into pit latrines and have consistently brought to the City’s attention the lack of access to running water, sanitation, and other challenges facing the settlement.

We are disheartened by the circumstances that have driven the community of Slovo Park to take to the streets. For nearly thirty years, since its establishment in the early 1990s, Slovo Park has been on the receiving end of broken promises made by government for upgrading and development. The City of Johannesburg has failed them. The community’s decision to take to the streets in protest is a measure of last resort, having exhausted other avenues available to them.

We mourn the death Karabo Chaka and extend our deepest condolences to his family and to the community of Slovo Park. We stand behind Slovo Park and we are in solidarity with their cause. We call on the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of Karabo’s death and demand that those responsible for his death be held accountable.

Contact details: 

  • Thato Masiangoako, SERI researcher: thato[at]seri-sa.org.
  • Khululiwe Bhengu, SERI senior attorney: khululiwe[at]seri-sa.org.

 

Download the press statement here.

[OP-ED] SERI's Khuliliwe Bhengu and Muano Nemavhidi reflect on the implications of eThekwini's informal trade by-laws (28 July 2023).

KB MN Op Ed DailyMav eThekwini informal tradeOn 25 July 2023, the Daily Maverick published an op-ed by SERI's Khululiwe Bhengu and Muano Nemavhidi entitled 'eThekwini continues to deny informal traders full trading rights despite high court ruling'. In 2015, in the matter Makwickana v Ethekwini Municipality and Others, the Durban High Court found in favour of an informal trader, John Makwickana, who had his goods confiscated by eThewkiwni law enforcement officials. The Court found that eThekwini Municipality’s by-laws potentially violate the rights of traders if they are implemented restrictively and ordered eThekwini Municipality to compensate Mr Makwicana for the value of his goods plus interest and to revise their by-laws to be in line with the Constitution.

In the op-ed, Bhengu nd Nemavhidi reflect on the new informal trading by-laws which eThekwini passed in 2019, a year after Makckwana had passed on. They find that the new by-laws present informal traders with barriers that begin with the application process and continue with overly restrictive enforcement which puts them at odds with the judgment. They write:

"In eThekwini, traders are easily criminalised and have their goods confiscated based on the by-laws, while their day-to-day realities and vulnerabilities are overlooked or not understood. This is against the spirit of our constitutional democracy which would require a truly consultative and inclusive scheme to regulate informal trade within the inner city."

Bhengu and Nemavhidi call for more constructive engagement between the municipality and traders to overcome challenges, as well as amendment of the by-laws in the ways outlined in the op-ed.

 

  • Read the full op-ed here.

 

[LITIGATION UPDATE] SERI, IEJ and #PayTheGrants launch of a court case challenging unfair exclusion of millions of people from the R350 SRD grant (27 Jul 2023).

On Friday, 21 July 2023, SERI filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court challenging regulations that unlawfully and unconstitutionally exclude millions of people living in poverty from receiving the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant. SERI represents the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) and #PayTheGrants (#PTG) in this matters. The court papers include 79 supporting affidavits from people directly impacted by these regulations. The respondents named in the case are the Minister for Social Development, and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

The court papers outline various reasons why eligible people are excluded from receiving the SRD grant, including: (1) the over-broad definition of income used to measure whether an applicant falls below the means-test threshold, (2) unlawful questions in the online application form, (3) the exclusionary online-only application process, (4) flawed bank and database verification processes, (5) a narrow appeals process that excludes relevant new evidence, (6) an arbitrary exclusion of qualifying applicants when funds are depleted, (7) a reduction in the grant's value over time, (8) an irrational and retrogressive income threshold, and (9) widespread and systemic non-payment of approved beneficiaries.

The applicants, alongside many civil society organisations, have repeatedly raised these impediments to access in good faith with government, in meetings and submissions over the last two years, in the hope that they would be resolved and rectified. Unfortunately, the barriers remain while the situation deteriorates further. 

  • Read the detailed account of the applicants’ argument here.
  • Access the Notice of Motion here.
  • Access the Founding Affidavit here.

[PRESS CONFERENCE] SERI represents IEJ and #PTG in challenging unfair exclusion of millions from SRD grant (26 July 2023).

PTG ConferenceThe Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), #PayTheGrants (#PTG), and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) will hold a hybrid press conference on Thursday, 27 July 2023 at 10:00am to announce the launch of a court case aimed at addressing the unfair exclusion of millions of people from the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.

The press conference will address the regulations that govern the value of the R350 SRD grant eligibility criteria and application procedures, as well as the manner in which the grant has been implemented. It will show how millions of people have been excluded, violating their right to social assistance and food, contained in section 27 of the Constitution.

SERI Executive Director, Nomzamo Zondo, IEJ Executive Director, Gilad Isaacs, #PTG Deputy Chair, Elizabeth Raiters, and two SRD grant applicants directly impacted by these regulations, Joleen Sampson and Vanessa Reece will address the press conference.

Please find the details for attending the press conference below:

Date: Thursday, 27 July 2023

Time: 10:00am

Venue: IEJ Offices, 3rd Floor, 62 Juta Street, Braamfontein

Zoom: Register and join

We look forward to your participation and engagement.

  • Download the full invitation here for further information and contact details. 

[LITIGATION UPDATE] KwaDukuza Municipality reaches settlement with Sheffield Beach and Salt Rock community (25 July 2023).

On 12 July 2023, KwaDukuza Municipality reached a settlement agreement with the community of Sheffield Beach and the Salt Rock area which was made an order of Court. The settlement brought an end to eviction proceedings instituted by the Municipality against the community in 2019, prior to SERI's involvement.

The community of Sheffield Beach and the Salt Rock area occupied the area in 2014 although members of the community were previously forcibly relocated from the area in 1987, when the area was still named eThafeni. Prior to the eviction proceedings, the municipality carried out unlawful demolitions in 2017 and 2018 and yet, also in 2017, the community was also visited by municipal officials and leaders from the African National Congress (ANC) who advised them that they could build their homes with brick and mortar whilst awaiting RDP housing.

The municipality brought the eviction against the community, seeking to relocate them to the Mgigimbe area approximately 30km away because it claimed that the informal settlement was adversely affecting the sales and value of newly developed luxury estates in the area, and because the municipality has plans for housing development in the area for which funding has been approved. 

In November 2020, the community filed its founding affidavit. In it, the community submitted that such an eviction would now be just and equitable. The community also submitted that they had not been meaningfully consulted prior to instituting the eviction proceedings and that they had not been given an opportunity to take part in a meeting held concerning planned housing development in the area and further submitted that as the only community residing in the area, they would like to be considered in the housing development.

In 2023, the community, alongside SERI, began taking part in a task team established for the housing development. The task team comprises of the appointed implementing agent, the Sheffield community, the KwaDukuza municipality and the local ward councillor are all represented.

The settlement includes an undertaking by the municipality to include the community (of approximately 310 households) as beneficiaries of the planned mixed-use housing development designed to cater to middle and low-income earners. 

  • Read more about the case and access relevant papers here.