LHR Launches Constitutional Challenge on Behalf of Waste Reclaimers

Date: 26/05/2020

Lawyers for Human Rights has launched an urgent application on behalf of informal waste reclaimers in Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, seeking a declaration that these workers can re-commence their waste recycling activities unimpeded under the current COVID-19 regulations.

LHR is specifically challenging the constitutionality of the directions issued by the Minister of Environment that require reclaimers to apply to municipalities for permits to continue working during the lockdown and to submit IDs or passports and proof of work permits, asylum seeker permits or refugee status to support these applications.  LHR further demands the return of 15 reclaimers’ trolleys that were seized by the City of Tshwane last week, and an order preventing the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department from harassing, intimidating, or arresting an informal waste reclaimer for not possessing the permits currently required.  Without their trolleys, the reclaimers are unable to gather their recyclable material and earn the meagre living possible in this line of work.

The case is part of a series of legal interventions made by LHR on behalf of these clients and other groups of reclaimers operating in the City of Tshwane region during the COVID-19 lockdown and in respect of the COVID-19 regulations. At the beginning of the Level 5 lockdown, reclaimers were not permitted to work at all and LHR launched an urgent application to have them declared as essential services workers. Although this application was dismissed, the Level 4 regulations now permit reclaimers to resume operations, but this will be practically impossible under the Minister’s new directions as they stand.

“The state’s COVID-19 directives must be related to halting the spread of the virus and ensuring the safety of the country, not simply used as a tool to create new laws” said Louise du Plessis, head of the Land and Housing Programme. “We are deeply concerned at the impact of these directives on one of the most vulnerable groups in the country.”

For queries:

Louise du Plessis, Head: Land & Housing Programme

louise@communitylaw.co.za  |  082 346 0744