DAY 1: 13 OCTOBER 2021

 

08h30 – 09h30                     Emails and other work

09h30 – 10h00                    Welcome, framing of PILG and explanation of the programme
Teresa Yates (National Director of ProBono.Org)         

10h00– 11h00                     Keynote Address by Dr Sithembile Mbethe
Introduction by Palesa Madi (Deputy Director of Centre for Applied Legal Studies)

11h00 – 11h15                    Tea break

11h15 – 11h30                    Update on COVID-19 hotline
Michael Clements (Head of Programmes at Lawyers for Human Rights)

11h30 – 13h00                    Plenary: The role of social grants in a COVID-19 response

As of 2019, approximately 18 million South Africans received social grant relief from the government. This number has undoubtedly grown in the past 18 months due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the livelihoods of millions of people living in South Africa. In recognition of this impact, the Department of Social Development has put several social grant mechanisms in place, including a special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant. However, both the scope and rollout of this support has been controversial. In addition, the momentum behind the institution of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) in South Africa is growing. This panel will:

  • Explore the contours of South Africa’s existing social grant system;
  • Debate the need for a BIG and how it might be funded;
  • Unpack the role of the right to social security in these struggles; and
  • Discuss the public interest advocacy and litigation work which is, or could be, responding to these issues.

Facilitator: Isobel Frye (Director of Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute)

Panellists:

  • Amanda Rinquest (National Education and Training Manager at Black Sash
  • Brenton van Vreede (Chief Director for Social Assistance at Department of Social Development)
  • Duma Gqubule (Director of the Centre for Economic Development and Transformation)
  • Daddy Mabe (#PAYTHEGRANTS campaign activist)

13h00 – 14h00                    Lunch break

14h00 – 15h30                    Panel 1A: Informal and precarious livelihoods during COVID – impacts and responses

The COVID-19 context and regulations issued under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 adversely affected the ability of those engaged in informal and precarious work to earn a living. In particular, informal traders (who did not trade in essential goods and services) and reclaimers (more commonly known as waste pickers) were prevented from earning an income due to the restrictions on movement, and many domestic workers were put on unpaid leave indefinitely or dismissed by their employers. Statistics South Africa reports that more than 259,000 domestic workers lost their jobs during the second quarter of 2020, a year-on-year decrease of 25.1%.

Government’s COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme excluded all informal workers and the majority of domestic workers in practice, as initially it was only open to employers registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The purpose of this session is to discuss the impact of the pandemic on informal traders, reclaimers and domestic workers and to explore the legal strategies undertaken by these worker groups alongside public interest legal services organisations to challenge lockdown regulations which adversely affected their livelihoods.

Facilitator: Kelebogile Khunou (Researcher at Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa)

Panellists:

  • Luyanda Hlatshwayo (Member of the executive committee at African Reclaimers Organisation)
  • Thandeka Chauke (Attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights)
  • Nerishka Singh (Candidate Attorney at Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa)
  • Kelly Kropman (Attorney at Kelly Kropman Attorneys)

Panel 1B: Rights and accountability in customary law: Developments backward and forward for rural communities

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a period of movement backward and forward for rural activists and communities. The stakes are higher than ever as land becomes an increasingly important resource for survival and livelihoods in a time of economic vulnerability and insecurity across South Africa. Before the pandemic, rural communities struggled to bring their issues into mainstream discourse, access information, and gain entry into spaces of power and decision-making. The terrain was already contested and dangerous for activists, especially in mining communities. These experiences have been exacerbated during the pandemic. Meanwhile it is becoming clearer that Parliament is dysfunctional as an institution of people’s power – it keeps ignoring the voices of the people and passing laws that must later be struck down by courts. On the flip side, court victories are ignored by both government and traditional leaders, and communities are sometimes left in the same position that they were in before. During this period there have been some high points, such as the Pietermaritzburg High Court’s finding against the Ingonyama Trust, and some low points, such as the commencement of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act. What do these developments mean for rural communities? And how do we tackle emerging issues as a sector when we are still adapting to new ways of working together triggered by the pandemic?

Facilitator: Monica De Souza Louw (Deputy Director of Land and Accountability Research Centre)

Panellists:

  • Wilmien Wicomb (Attorney at Legal Resources Centre)
  • Nokwanda Sihlali (Research Officer: Land at Land and Accountability Research Centre)
  • Thiyane Duda and Ayesha Motala (Researchers at Land and Accountability Research Centre)

15h30 – 15h45                    Tea break

15h45 – 17h00                    Self-care session
Facilitator: Lucy Draper-Clarke

                 

DAY 2: 14 OCTOBER 2021

 

08h30 – 08h45                     Emails and other work

08h45 – 09h15                    Self-care session
Facilitator: Lucy Draper-Clarke

09h30 – 11h00                    Plenary: Threatened and collapsing institutions

Like the 2020 Beirut explosion, which through both its tragedy and predictability shone a light on decades of government mismanagement and corruption in Lebanon, the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the brute consequences of maladministration in South African government institutions. This panel will ask contributors and participants to think together on the state of South Africa’s institutions, focusing on those whose integrity and sustainability has recently been called into question, such as the South African Police Service and the judiciary. We will ask why some institutions have improved and others have deteriorated; how budgeting impacts institutional strength; and what the role of civil society is in strengthening state institutions and/or holding them accountable.

Facilitator: Prof Tshepo Madlingozi (Director of Centre for Applied Legal Studies)

Panellists:

  • Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi (Executive Director of Public Affairs Research Institute)
  • Ziyanda Stuurman (Policy Manager at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab)
  • Mbekezeli Benjamin (Research and Advocacy Officer at Judges Matter)
  • Zukiswa Kota (Monitoring and Advocacy Manager at Public Service Accountability Monitor)

11h00 – 11h15                    Tea break

11h15 – 12h45                   Panel 2A: Can we use learning from the COVID-19 pandemic to sharpen our defence of/progress towards social justice outcomes in a changed climate?

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to almost every aspect of our society, and exposed the extreme vulnerabilities of our economic and social systems to a global crisis. At the same time, the pandemic has also given rise to new regulatory interventions, forced a much expanded tolerance for change and adaptation than was thought possible and illustrated how much the state and civil society can efficiently organise when there is an emergency to be overcome. Like the pandemic, the Climate Change crisis affects all of us and threatens to undo much more than COVID-19 in terms of human ability to live in many parts of the world, quality of life and rights violations including life, dignity, gender equality, safe housing, healthcare, access to safe drinking water, access to food, migration and refugees, children’s rights, livelihoods strategies, social stability and peace. As always, it is certain sectors of society (youth, women, rural communities) that bear the brunt of climate change impacts. This panel will therefore explore how we might learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to help us to prepare for the complex and varied impacts of a changed climate on social justice outcomes.

Facilitator: Wandisa Phama (Deputy Director of Centre for Environmental Rights)

Panellists:

  • Garrett Barnwell (University Research Committee Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Humanities)
  • Vho-Mphatheleni Makaulule (Indigenous Knowledge Specialist at Dzomo la Mupo)
  • Andrew Bennie (Research coordinator at the African Centre for Biodiversity)
  • Professor Debra Roberts (Head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit in eThekwini Municipality)

Panel 2B: A rights-based green recovery post COVID-19: Where legal and policy efforts to further Animal Wellbeing, Social Justice and a Healthy Environment meet

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with our imminent climate crisis, has brought the extent to which humans, non-human animals and the environment are connected into sharp focus. In considering how to recover as a country post-Covid 19, it is critical for this interconnection to be recognised in the application of law and policy. This panel will discuss how policy efforts to further animal wellbeing, social justice, and environmental sustainability have the potential to be mutually reinforcing when imagining and advocating for an inclusive rights-based green recovery post COVID-19.

Facilitator: Lara Wallis (Executive Director of Animal Law Reform South Africa)

Panellists:

  • Dr Melanie Murcott (Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria)
  • Tozie Zokufa (Executive Director of the Coalition for African Animal Welfare Organisations)
  • Kirsten Youens (Executive Director of ALL RISE Attorneys for Environmental and Climate Justice)

Panel 2C: Reflections on multi-faceted education activism in South Africa during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep-rooted inequalities, intensified hunger, poverty and unemployment, and caused already simmering crises all across South Africa to reach boiling point. Its continued impact on education has been particularly devastating, with schools and ECD Centres having been regularly shut down since 18 March 2020 and government proving to be ill-prepared to support comprehensive remote learning and social services required by learners during these extended closures.  Civil society organisations, social movements, and community action groups have all played a critical role in responding to these crises – in some cases, serving the needs of communities which could not be adequately fulfilled by government, or by providing targeted support to government to fulfil these needs – and in others, holding government accountable and demanding a more responsive state. In this panel we aim to consolidate the lessons learnt by our organisations and examine the activism strategies or combination of strategies we employed at different times over the past two years, and the associated wins and challenges. The panel will discuss how the strategic use of social and traditional media, community organising, direct engagement with government and oversight bodies, participation in civil society coalitions, and litigation, all played, and will continue to play, a central part in achieving meaningful change and holding government accountable.  

Facilitator: Hopolang Selebalo (Head of research at Equal Education)

Panellists:

  • Tshegofatso Phala (Executive Director of Equal Education Law Centre)
  • Demichelle Petherbridge (Attorney at SECTION27)
  • Yolanda Sewela (Equaliser at Equal Education)
  • Karabo Ozah (Director at Centre for Child Law)

12h45 – 13h45                    Lunch break

13h45 – 15h15                    Panel 3A: Vaccine Apartheid and Secrecy – Using law to advocate for equity, transparency and accountability within a global pandemic

Covid-19 has deepened global inequalities and has expanded the gap between the Global North and the Global South, and between the rich and poor. South Africa’s Constitution provides for access to health care services and includes access to Covid-19 medicines, Personal Protective Equipment and vaccines. Corporate greed and government decision-making based on politics and self-interest rather than public health principles and ethics have severely hampered South Africa’s response to the pandemic. Using examples drawn from litigation and advocacy pressure, this panel will explore the role of the Constitution, democratic processes and statutory bodies in safeguarding health and well-being to those living in South Africa, and to ensure rigorous precedent for future pandemics.

Facilitator: Marlise Richter (Senior Researcher at Health Justice Initiative)

Panellists:

  • S’lindile Khumalo’ (Attorney at PowerSingh Inc)
  • Yanga Nokhepheyi (Researcher at Health Justice Initiative)
  • Tabitha Paine (Lawyer at Open Secrets)

Panel 3B: Mandatory vaccination – Reconciling individual rights and public health

South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out programme, which thus far has been based on voluntary vaccination, has accelerated over the past few months with persons 18 years and older now being eligible to be vaccinated. To date, more than 5.9 million people have been fully vaccinated. Mandatory vaccination has been debated as a means of vaccinating all eligible adults and protecting public health. Although universal mandatory vaccination has not been brought into effect in South Africa, on 11 June 2021 the Department of Labour released updated Directions that allow employers to make vaccination compulsory within their companies subject to a risk assessment and a plan. Understanding vaccine hesitancy is an important part of the mandatory vaccination debate. This panel will explore both the socio-political considerations and the legal issues implicated by mandatory vaccination – where possible limitations to the rights to human dignity, freedom of religion, and bodily integrity need to be weighed against the strong public health arguments in favour of mandatory vaccination.

Facilitator: Mbalenhle Baduza (Legal Researcher at SECTION27)

Panellists:

  • Umunyana Rugege (Executive Director at SECTION27)
  • Halton Cheadle (Professor Emeritus at University of Cape Town and attorney at BCHC Attorneys)
  • Safura Abdool Karim (Researcher at SAMRC Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science)
  • Professor Pierre De Vos (Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance and lecturer of Constitutional Law at the University of Cape Town)
  • Tessa Dooms (Sociologist and political analyst in the youth mobilisation and development sector)

Panel 3C: Naming Perpetrators: Legal Challenges and Conundrums

Facilitator: Erica Emdon (Director at Public Interest Practice)

Panellists:

  • Chriscy Blouws (Attorney at Women’s Legal Centre)
  • Mandisa Khanyile (Fundraising Director of Rise Up Against Gender Based Violence)
  • Brenda Madumise-Pajibo (Director at WISE 4 Africa Collective)
  • Chandre Brown (NADEL Western Cape Provincial Convener)

15h15 – 15h30                    Tea break

15h30 – 16h45                    Plenary: The role of donors in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: The future of funding for public interest law work

Facilitator: Nersan Govender (National Director of Legal Resources Centre)

Panellists:

  • Thoko Madonko (Programme Manager at the Heinrich Boell Foundation)
  • Fatima Shabodien (Strategy Director at The Raith Foundation)                                                         

16h45 – 17h00                    Closing and thanks

Seehaam Samaai (Director of Womxn’s Legal Centre)