Stop the xenophobic attacks on SERI

Publish Date: 
Friday, August 5, 2022

ESCR-Net - International Network of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) stands in solidarity with South African member, Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI). The threats aimed at SERI are directly linked to recent efforts to support informal traders in the De Villiers Street trading precinct in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In the context of a police operation on 19 July 2022, ordered by Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development, Councilor Nkululeko Mbundu, 400 informal traders were illegally evicted from De Villiers Street trading precinct. On 28 July 2022, SERI supported South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF) in filing a complaint with the Johannesburg High Court, which ruled that the City must reverse the eviction as well as compensate the traders for lost income. In 2013, SERI had won a Constitutional Court case against the City of Johannesburg, ruling that the City could not prevent informal traders from carrying out their activities. 

After the Johannesburg High Court ruling, Councilor Nkululeko Mbundu took to social media and news media to share a series of inflammatory messages falsely claiming that SAITF is a front for foreigners and that De Villiers Street trading precinct would be “invaded”. The social media posts appear to have mobilized xenophobic and racist groups in South Africa who have since threatened to burn down the offices of SERI, and photos and phone numbers are being circulated on social media.

We are deeply concerned to learn of the xenophobic and racist threats that have been leveled at SERI for carrying out essential human rights work in support of some of the most vulnerable people in South Africa. We express our deepest solidarity with the organization and its staff, as well as SAITF, whose members face death threats on a regular basis.

We are pleased to see both the City of Johannesburg and the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services have expressed its rejection of Councilor Nkululeko Mbundu’s statements. However, we call on the City to take concrete steps to ensure the security and safety of both SERI staff as well as informal traders of SAITF.

In addition to supporting informal workers, SERI has also provided critical support to fellow ESCR-Net members, Abahlali baseMjondolo, in the face of illegal evictions in Durban. ESCR-Net is proud to count SERI amongst our members, and they are held in high esteem by fellow members around the world.

ESCR-Net is a global network of over 280 NGOs, social movements and advocates across more than 75 countries working to build a global movement to make human rights and social justice a reality for all.

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