Nelson Mandela Foundation

To: Media Representatives
From: Nelson Mandela Foundation
Publishing Date: 24 November 2022

Saturday 19 November 2022 marked the second anniversary since the Constitutional Court handed down a significant judgment in Mahlangu v Minister of Labour, compelling the inclusion of domestic workers in legislation aimed at protecting workers.

On Wednesday 30 November 2022, the Socio Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) will host the second annual dialogue reflecting on the status of domestic work in South Africa in the wake of the Constitutional Court judgment. It will bring together domestic workers, government, civil society and private actors in conversation about key issues in the sector and the future of domestic work. Facilitated by Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse of the Black Womxn Caucus, the keynote address will be delivered by Seeham Samaai of the Women’s Legal Centre. Other speakers on the day will be Pinky Mashiane from United Domestic Workers of South Africa, Jacqueline Utamuriza-Nzisabira from United Nations Women, Chriscy Blouws from Women’s Legal Centre and the Compensation Fund’s Nokuthula Sihlangu.

When: Wednesday 30 November 2022, 18h00- 19h30
Where: Nelson Mandela Foundation, 107 Central Street, Houghton Estate, Johannesburg 

In Mahlangu v Minister of Labour, the Court declared the constitutional invalidity of section 1(xix)(v) of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA), which excluded domestic workers employed in private households from the definition of "employee", thus precluding them from claiming from the Compensation Fund for work-related injuries, illness or death. Significantly, the Court also ruled that the order of constitutional invalidity is to have immediate and retrospective effect from 27 April 1994, which means domestic workers and dependents who have experienced work-related injuries, diseases, or death as far back as 27 April 1994 are also able to submit claims.

In the two years since the Mahlangu judgement, less than ten claims from domestic workers have been processed. The challenges in implementing the judgment are characteristic of the broader challenges in enforcing labour laws for domestic workers: namely, a lack of public awareness of labour laws which cover domestic workers, weak enforcement of laws, non-compliant employers and disparaging attitudes about domestic work amongst the public. Despite a progressive legal framework for the sector, domestic workers in South Africa still experience unfair working conditions and ill-treatment.  

The victory of Mahlangu presents us with the opportunity to take stock of domestic work in South Africa, reflecting on achievements and finding solutions to the challenges of employer compliance and strengthening enforcement mechanisms. Mahlangu still has the potential to be a turning point in terms of the implementation of domestic worker laws in South Africa. 


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