Today the Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), applauded the removal of discriminatory provisions in an updated version of the Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill (GTED Bill). The Bill is open for further comments until 30 August.
The organizations welcome significant changes from a previous draft of the Bill that reflect the submissions the organizations had made.
“The revised Bill laudably removes an entire chapter that was previously dedicated to excluding non-citizens from the already meagre working opportunities available to them. We welcome this as it is in line with the recommendations made by human rights organizations,” said Nomzamo Zondo, SERI’s Executive Director.
“While we recognize that the Gauteng government took legal advice on these matters which led to this change in the Bill, it is still concerning that those tasked with the initial drafting of the Bill appeared to have instructions to make unlawful provision for the discriminatory exclusion of non-citizens from work opportunities. Government can and should boost township economies without discriminating against non-citizens,” Zondo added.
In November 2020 a wide range of organizations made submissions on various aspects of the Bill, including a chapter which was titled “Economic Activities Reserved for Citizens or Persons with Permanent Residency Status.” This chapter would have reserved an unspecified, but potentially large range of economic activities exclusively for citizens and permanent residents in violation of the prohibition on discrimination against non-citizens binding on the South African government in terms of the Constitution of South Africa and international human rights law.
These rights include the constitutional rights to equality, dignity and the right against arbitrary deprivation of property, as well as the “right to work”, protected by Articles 6 to 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Such discrimination also amounts to a violation of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which more broadly protects the right to equality.
“Both domestic and international human rights law are clear that all people living in South Africa have a right to work in South Africa, irrespective of their citizenship or documentary status,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ’s Africa Director.
“The ICJ hopes that provincial governments and legislatures throughout the country take heed of the legal advice received by the Gauteng government and desist from any further attempts to legislate the xenophobic exclusion of non-citizens,” Ramjathan-Keogh added.
The Bill would have created the very real risk of excluding a significant number of people from a wide range of limited economic activities available to them and subjected them to criminal sanction if they were found to engage in economic activities in contravention with its provisions. This, the organizations warned, was likely to render non-citizens from already marginalized communities even more destitute and open them up to xenophobic sentiment and violence.
Given recent developments in the province of Gauteng, including the widespread looting which has damaged businesses in townships in the province, we believe that the impact the GTED Bill seeks to have, will be momentous. While many large businesses may have insurance to cover the financial damage occurring from the looting, smaller businesses may not. Consequently, the impact from the looting is likely to deal them, particularly those within the informal economy, an even bigger blow, especially those located in townships.
“Township economies which were already affected by lockdown restrictions and meagre government relief packages are now in dire need of rebuilding in the wake of the looting,” said Sharon Ekambaram, Head of Refugee & Migrant Rights Programme at LHR.
“The Bill as it stands fails to make specific provision for the regulation and advancement of the informal economy in townships with clear plans to improve the working conditions of women and men engaging in livelihoods to sustain their families,” Ekambaram said.
“The informal sector cannot be excluded from any plans to revitalize the economy. We call on the Gauteng government to consult widely with informal traders organizations and organized formations of workers in the informal economy before proceeding with the finalization of the Bill,” she added.
LHR and SERI have made submissions on the Bill to ensure that the Bill adequately protects the constitutional rights of informal workers and acknowledges their role in township economies especially given the fact that the informal economy constitutes close to 40% of the work force in South Africa.
The organizations noted that, while the new draft GTED Bill was a step in the right direction, the Bill still needs further revision with the aim and purpose of contributing to the transformation of township economies, in order to allow all those working in Gauteng’s informal sector economies to do so with dignity, opportunity and adequate government support. The organizations look forward to engaging with the Gauteng provincial government toward that end.
SERI and LHR “Submission on the draft Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill”, available here.
ICJ “Submission on the Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill”, available here.
For more information:
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Director Africa Programme, Kaajal.Keogh@icj.org, +27 84514 8039
Tanveer Jeewa, Legal and Communications Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nomzamo Zondo, Executive Director, email@example.com, +27 71301 9676
Yvonne Erasmus, Senior Researcher, firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 83518 3870
Sharon Ekambaram, Head of Refugee & Migrant Rights Programme, Lawyers for Human Rights, email@example.com, +27 83634 8924NewsWeb stories