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Mahlangu and Another v Minister of Labour and Others (CCT306/19) [2020] ZACC 24

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Mahlangu and Another v Minister of Labour and Others (CCT306/19) [2020] ZACC 24

20th November 2020

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[1]  Domestic workers are the unsung heroines in this country and globally.  They are a powerful group of women[1] whose profession enables all economically active members of society to prosper and pursue their careers.  Given the nature of their work, their relationships with their own children and family members are compromised, while we pursue our career goals with peace of mind, knowing that our children, our elderly family members and our households are well taken care of.

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[2]  Many domestic workers are breadwinners in their families who put children through school and food on the table through their hard work.  In some cases, they are responsible for the upbringing of children in multiple families and may be the only loving figure in the lives of a number of children.  Their salaries are often too low to maintain a decent living standard but by exceptional, if not inexplicable effort, they succeed.  Sadly, despite these herculean efforts, domestic work as a profession is undervalued and unrecognised; even though they play a central role in our society.[2]

[3]  At issue here is social security for domestic workers.  The cornerstone of any young democracy is a comprehensive social security system, particularly for the most vulnerable members of society.  Although passed before the advent of our constitutional democracy, the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act[3] (COIDA) partially contributes to our country’s social security system.  Unfortunately, 26 years into our democracy and despite the constitutional promise and aspirational expectations, in the event of injury, disablement, or death at the workplace, domestic workers do not enjoy the protection under COIDA.[4]  By stark contrast, all other employees are.

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