Abahlali condemns the attacks on SERI

Monday, 01 August 2022
Abahlali baseMjondolo press statement

Abahlali condemns the attacks on SERI

The important Human Rights organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), is under attack from vicious right-wing forces incited by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the City of Johannesburg.

These threats come after SERI successfully prevented the unlawful removal of street traders in the De Villiers precinct in the Johannesburg Central Business District. The threats have been extremely serious.

The attack started as a result of an extremely irresponsible and reckless tweet by the City’s MMC for Economic Development, Nkululeko Mbundu, from the right-wing and extremely xenophobic party ActionSA. Mbundu said 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 the litigation. The tweet included SERI’s press release with the cell phone numbers of the two lawyers who were part of the successful court application. This was deeply irresponsible and misleading and ran a real risk of inciting violence. Mbundu is threat to society and to democratic values and cannot remain as a leader. He must be removed from his position with immediate effect.

As SERI noted in their press release, the threats that followed Mbundu’s tweets included threats to follow SERI staff members home from the office and take pictures of where they live, and to burn down the SERI offices. A screenshot with the address of the offices was circulated.

Some people asked “why SERI should live to see the victory of patriotic South Africans?”. SERI staff were reminded that “Babita died” because “some people have a tendency to test the depth of rivers with both feet.” Someone said “abanqakwe”, a reference to kidnapping or lynching. Another person said that SERI staff members should be taken to shoot a video at a disused mine in Krugersdorp – a reference to the recent rapes there.

This is deeply sickening.

SERI is led by a black woman and many committed and brilliant black women work there. The attacks on the organisation have been grossly sexist and many of the threats that have been made include horrific threats against women. We offer our full support for all the women at SERI who are now being threatened by men following Mbundu’s incitement. We are ready to offer our support in anyway required.

We will not allow SERI to be threatened like this. SERI has worked closely with our movement for more than fifteen years. Many NGOs and pro-bono law firms are unable to work with the poor with respect. They often assume that we can’t think for ourselves and that their role is to tell us what to do. They often want to depoliticise movements and the issues that they confront. SERI have always engaged us with deep respect. Our relationship with SERI has always been dignified. As lawyers SERI they take their instruction from the poor while others are giving instruction to the poor. They are our comrades, and we never stand by when a comrade is under attack.

An attack on SERI is an attack on us, the poor and marginalised.

These threats reek of fascism and cannot be tolerated.

We call on all progressive organisations and individuals to condemn and oppose this attack on what is a glorious organisation of truly progressive lawyers and researchers, an organisation that has stood by our movement in the darkest times. We all need to be in solidarity with SERI.

No to xenophobia!
No to attacks on progressive lawyers!
No to inciting violence against women!
Full solidarity with SERI!
Remove Mbundu from his position now!


Thapelo Mohapi – 084 576 5117
Sbu Zikode – 083 5470 474
Mqapheli Bonono – 073 067 3274