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[ADVOCACY] SERI participates in the first Social Justice Assembly (31 January 2023).

SJA logo borderOn 26 and 27 January 2023, SERI took part in the first Social Justice Assembly (SJA) hosted at Think Africa at the University of Pretoria. The Assembly sought to bring together "250 delegates from community-based organisations, social movements, non-governmental organisations, international non-governmental organisations, academics and donors into one space to discuss challenges facing the country and the world, the state of the sector currently and how best civil society can coordinate its efforts to bring about lasting and consequential change."

The impetus behind the Assembly was the Social Justice Sector Review Report, published in November 2020. The report, supported by the Raith Foundation, provides a historical record of the developments in South Africa's social justice sector since 1994. The report reflects on the sector's progress, its shortcomings and informs its strategies going forward. The report's findings formed the foundation of the deliberations of the SJA.

 SJA NomzamoZondo INtro  SJA NoncedoMadubedube keynote


SERI's Nomzamo Zondo gave the introduction and welcoming address alongside PARI's Mbongiseni Buthelezi. Both Nomzamo and Mbongiseni form part of the SJA coordinating committee. Equal Education's Noncedo Madubedube and Ayabonga Cawe delivered the keynote addresses for days one and two of the Assembly, respectively. 

 SJA JBrickhill speaking 2  SJA breakaway session on sector funding  SJA AyabongaCawe keynote

The Assembly also comprised of various break-away engagement sessions on a range of thematic areas including sectoral collaboration, engaging the state, and funding the sector, which SERI's Jason Brickhill gave a presentation and SERI's Nomzamo Zondo facilitated. Other engagement sessions were held on the energy transition and the intersection between climate change and social justice, GBV, migrant rights in South Africa and mental wellness. Portions of the SJA were live-streamed and can be accessed below.

  • Access day one of the Social Justice Assembly here.
  • Access day two of the Social Justice Assembly here.


[TRIBUTE] Slovo Park community and SERI mourn the passing of Lydia Lenyatsa (24 January 2023).

STBO 6 Lydia

The Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) and SERI mourn the passing of Lydia Lenyatsa (12 November 1983 - 11 January 2023), who was an active resident of the Slovo Park informal settlement for over 20 years.

Lydia was featured in a mini documentary entitled, 'The Struggle to be Ordinary' which looks at access to water and sanitation for people living with disabilities in informal settlements. Lydia suffered from scoliosis and had challenges with her lungs making her reliant on a regular oxygen supply from 2011. She was laid to rest on 21 January 2023 in Slovo Park and is survived by her three children, parents and her husband.

Lydia was a champion of disability rights particularly in the informal settlement context and advocated for the development of Slovo Park. Her passing is a great loss to her loved ones and the community of Slovo Park, as a whole.

Here is a link to our interview with Lydia for the documentary, 'The Struggle to be Ordinary'.

[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.

[PUBLICATION] SERI and partners launch eThekwini Street Traders Guide (30 January 2023).

eThekwini Traders


On 6 December 2022, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), the South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) and the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders) launched a new guide for street traders in eThekwini entitled “Street Trade in eThekwini: Your Rights” in Durban. The guide, developed in close consultation with street traders operating in eThekwini, explains the rights of informal traders and the laws and policies that protect them, and gives informal traders practical advice on how to engage with the eThekwini Municipality and its officials. The launch was attended by 50 people, the vast majority of whom were traders from different organisations across Durban. 

SERI researcher, Kelebogile Khunou, SAITF’s Verushka Memdutt and Southern Defender’s Simphiwe Sidu welcomed the attendees to the event, providing the background of the development of the guide which involved the three organisations. Kelebogile then outlined the contents of the guide. The rest of the event was a panel discussion facilitated by SERI senior attorney, Khululiwe Bhengu. On the panel was Brian Phaaloh (secretary general SAITF), Patrick Ndlovu (Asiye eTafuleni, co-founder) and Dr. Mimi Ndokweni (Business Support Unit, eThekwini Municipality). 

Brian provided insights from the perspective of traders and highlighted the challenges traders in eThekwini experience which include harassment by law enforcement and issues regarding the permitting system. Patrick from Asiye eTafuleni, a non-profit organisation which focuses on promoting and developing good practice and process around inclusive urban planning & design, shared the experience of the organisation in supporting informal traders, emphasising the fact that traders who know their rights in relation to the regulatory framework are often targeted and penalised by law enforcement. Dr. Ndokweni spoke about the municipality’s plans to further support traders in eThekwini, acknowledging the challenges encountered thus far. The panel inputs were followed by audience discussion. In conclusion, Khululiwe underscored the need for increased collaboration between the trader organisations which exist across the municipality, as well as the need for ongoing engagement between the municipality and trader organisations. 

  • Download the new guide for street traders in eThekwini here.
  • Download the new guide for street traders in eThekwini in IsiZuluhere.
  • Download the earlier guide for street traders in Johannesburg here.