Court likens private estate's 'repressive' domestic worker rules to apartheid

2017-11-17 21:52
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Pretoria – Rules for domestic workers at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate are repressive and reminiscent of the position the apartheid regime took, a full bench in the Pietermaritzburg High Court found.

The court delivered a judgment in favour of Niemesh Singh, a resident at the KwaZulu-Natal estate, who challenged its road and domestic worker rules.

Singh took the estate to court after his daughter received fines for speeding, challenging the rules, and claiming that speed trapping in the estate was unlawful.

In terms of the estate’s rules, domestic workers are only allowed access to the estate between 08:00 and 18:00.

The rules also effectively state that domestic workers may not walk on roads in the estate and are only allowed to walk to designated bus stop points to be transported.

"Domestic workers are simply not free to traverse the public roads in the estate save in the limited manner provided by the rules," the judgment stated.

"From a constitutional point of view, their rights in this regard are severely restricted."

'Unreasonable and unlawful rules'

The full bench, which included Judges Rishi Seegobin, Mahendra Chetty and Piet Bezuidenhout, commented that the estate appeared to have categorised domestic workers into a class of people who pose a security risk to people living on the estate.

"Their position within the estate is reminiscent of the position that prevailed in the apartheid era: while they are good enough to perform domestic duties for their employers on the estate…they are precluded from exercising any rights derived from public law and the Constitution."

"The restrictive nature of these rules is, in my view, an affront to their fundamental rights to human dignity, equality, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation and fair labour practices," the judgment read.

The court considered the rules to be unreasonable and unlawful.

The court found that speed trapping and the setting road rules in a private estate was illegal as the roads inside of the estate were public roads and only the Minister of Transport, or someone authorised by him, has the power to regulate any aspect of public roads.

Justice Project South Africa's Howard Dembovsky said the judgment confirmed everything JPSA had been saying for years about the illegality of people, such as security guards, setting up speed-measuring equipment, stopping alleged infringers and issuing them with fines.

“This brings to an end the long-held view of private residential estates that they may set speed limits and erect road signs without abiding by the restrictions of the National Road Traffic Act,” said Dembovsky.

“It also ensures that enforcement can only be carried out by a traffic officer who is authorised by law to do so."

Read more on:    jpsa  |  pietermaritzburg  |  courts

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