SERI Temporarily Closes Offices Due to Threats Made to Staff

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Dear Comrades, Colleagues & Friends

I hope that you are all well.

SERI temporarily closed our office after threats were made to harm our staff and burn our offices. These threats started on Wednesday after we settled a case against the removal of informal traders from the De Villiers precinct in the Johannesburg Central Business District. The Member of Mayoral Committee for Economic Development in the City of Johannesburg, Nkululeko Mbundu, tweeted amongst others that the City had been interdicted after ‘locals were used… as a front’ to bring a court application and suggested that De Villiers would be invaded in the morning as a result of our litigation. The tweet included SERI’s press release with the cell phone numbers of the two lawyers who were working on that case. Threats were made against us on twitter tagging us, the City of Johannesburg and the MMC. Pictures of the attorney working on the case were circulated on twitter and people encouraged to call her to tell her to “back off or else” or pay her a visit. Direct calls were made to both lawyers to watch their backs and that people knew their location and are coming for them.

By Friday morning, tweets with pictures of each SERI staffer were being circulated and once more people were encouraged to:

  1. Follow us home from the office and take pictures of where we live if they happen to see us.
  2. Visit and burn down our office while a screenshot with our address was circulated.

More worrying:

  1. People asked why we should live to see the victory of patriotic South Africans
  2. Reminded us that “Babita died” because “some people have a tendency to test the depth of rivers with both feet.”
  3. Someone else said ‘abanqakwe’, a reference to kidnapping or lynching.
  4. Someone else said that we should be taken to shoot a video at a disused mine in Krugersdorp- “a reference to the recent rapes”.

As expected, many of the threats used sexual innuendo because the case was litigated by women, in a woman led organisation that is mostly staffed by women.

It is not lost on us that these tactics are not new and different organisations in the sector have suffered this type of abuse in the hope that they will be intimidated to abandon their work or a certain part of it.

We have engaged Dr Mpho Phalatse who leads the City of Johannesburg in the hope that she will act to ensure that the lies and inflammatory statements by the MMC are retracted but have not seen any action.

We will be hosting a press conference tomorrow at 13:00 at the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Parktown, Johannesburg and request that Johannesburg based organisations send a representative to it. Full details on the press conference appear in the attached statement.

We appreciate the support that we have received.

Kind regards,
Nomzamo Zondo,
Executive Director of SERI-SA

This press statement was released by Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa on 31 July 2022.

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