During the past 3 months LHR provided legal advice and representation to approximately 3000 vulnerable people who would otherwise be unable to access their human rights. Clients visit us at 6 offices nationwide. Your contribution helps us keep these clinics running smoothly in order to make the Constitution real for every person in South Africa.
We would like to share two of our most recent success stories to which you contributed by your dedication to this project.
HOMELESS PEOPLE HAVE HUMAN RIGHTS TOO
Lawyers for Human Rights celebrated the landmark judgment handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal, tackling a pressing human rights issue that has been largely ignored in South African metros: a pattern of confiscating and destroying the property of the poorest members of society.
This case concerned a group of almost 30 homeless people who have lived on a traffic island under the R31 highway bridge in Johannesburg for the past four years. The community made their living by collecting recyclable material to sell, and their homes were constructed out leftover material - cardboard boxes, wooden pallets, and plastics. Each morning, they would dismantle and pack away the make-shift shelters, and storing all their personal possessions including food, money, blankets, clothing, and identity documents while venturing to work.
The JMPD arrived unannounced one day last year and confiscated and destroyed all of this property, kicking and spraying the residents with pepper spray in the process.
“Our clients lost everything it had in an instant”, said Thandeka Chauke, attorney for Lawyers for Human Rights. “The JMPD stated that they had embarked on this action as part of an ongoing ‘clean-up operation’ in terms of the by-laws, but the impact was devastating and dehumanizing for these already-vulnerable individuals”.
After Lawyers for Human Rights brought a case challenging the constitutionality of this conduct, the High Court found that the JMPD’s conduct “was a cynical and mean spirited act deserving of censure” but failed to grant relief to the residents for their loss of property.
The Supreme Court reversed that decision, calling the JMPD’s actions “disrespectful and demeaning” and granting an order that the destruction of our client’s property was unlawful and unconstitutional. Each of LHR’s clients must be paid R1 500 in compensation for the loss of their property and the gross violation of their rights to dignity and property.
“This judgment is a landmark victory for homeless people” said Chauke. “It must also serve as a critical reminder to all of us to recognize and respect the human dignity of all people, including the poor. The judgement is a warning to those municipalities who instead of finding sustainable solutions to homelessness resort to demolishing, destroying, and burning poor people’s homes”.
LHR BRINGS LIFE-SAVING INTERVENTION ON BEHALF OF ASYLUM-SEEKER
Lawyers for Human Rights approached the Johannesburg High Court to hear the matter of Alem Bazabe Ereselo v the CEO: Helen Joseph Hospital and Others, which concerns an asylum seeker’s Constitutional right to access emergency medical treatment, equality, human dignity, and life.
After fleeing Ethiopia due to persecution on the basis of her political opinion, the Applicant in this matter arrived in South Africa in 2010 seeking asylum. Having been in South Africa for more than 9 years, the Applicant is still waiting for her application for asylum to be determined by the Department of Home Affairs.
In January 2019, the Applicant was admitted to Helen Jospeh Hospital for kidney failure and was placed on triweekly acute hemodialysis treatment for approximately five hours at a time. On 24 April 2019, she was given notice that her treatment would be terminated on 1 May 2019. The reason she was given for the termination of her treatment is that “you are not a South African citizen and you do not possess verified documents pertaining to refugee status or permanent citizenship awarded.”
Doctors at Helen Joseph Hospital have confirmed both to the Applicant and Lawyers for Human Rights that if the Applicant’s treatment is discontinued, she will die.
Through discussions with Helen Joseph Hospital, it appears that the reason for terminating the Applicant’s hemodialysis treatment is because of a policy of the National Department of Health. Pursuant to this policy, it appears that the only reason for the termination of the Applicant’s treatment is her immigration status, as an asylum seeker. Had she possessed a verified refugee status or permanent residence or South African citizenship, she would continue receiving treatment. In other words, it is only a policy that stands between the Applicant and life-saving treatment.
The matter was postponed until later this month on agreement that the Applicant would continue to receive hemodialysis treatment until the finalisation of the matter.
LHR will argue that the policy, which prevents an asylum-seeker from continuing to receive chronic renal treatment, is unconstitutional. This argument will include submissions concerning patients who are asylum seekers who have fled persecution in their country of origin and for that very reason cannot return to their country because they would be in danger of further harm or persecution. An asylum seeker cannot legally return to her country of origin to receive medical treatment, because doing so would cause her to lose his/her asylum seeker status in South Africa.