|2012 07 04 Press Release: Bread class action - LRC admitted as friend of the court|
For Immediate Release: Wednesday 4 July 2012
The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) has been admitted as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the Supreme Court of Appeal in the matter of Trustees for the Children Resources Trust and Others v Pioneer Food (Pty) Ltd and Others.
The appellants have brought a class action application in terms of section 38 (c) of the Constitution. They are acting in the interest of a class of person – the consumers, whom they allege have had their rights infringed by three major bread manufacturers who colluded to fix the selling price of bread in the Western Cape.
The appellants allege that the consumers' Constitutional rights in terms of section 27(1) (b) and 28(1)(c) have been threatened and infringed. Section 27(1) (b) provides that everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and 28(1) (c) provides that every child has the right to basic nutrition.
The LRC will not be making any submissions on the merits of the matter.
"Our interest is to develop the law in order to clarify class action procedures in South Africa, and our legal submissions will be limited to this area of concern. Such clarity is urgently required and this case, apart from being about an important issue that affects all South Africans, provides a perfect set of facts to finally determine what is required in class action procedures," said Sayi Nindi, an LRC attorney.
The work of the LRC has two central features: It affects large numbers of people, and it has the potential to change the law (its practice and policies) in ways which advance the interests of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised. The submissions that will be made by the LRC are to a large degree informed by the LRC's unique depth and range of experience in impact litigation. Poor people do not have easy access to institutions for dispute resolution when they encounter resistance from government bureaucracy and private corporations in relation to their rights and entitlements. Courts are of the greatest significance to the poor precisely because of the fact of their poor socio-economic situation and marginalisation.
The rules governing class actions are therefore directly relevant to the work of the LRC. Often the clients approaching the LRC for redress are part of a larger class of persons who are experiencing related and similar problems. A class action is often the only viable means of bringing the matter before the court in such a manner that the rights of all concerned may be vindicated, by giving effective access to court to all who are affected. The lack of clarity surrounding the requirements and procedures for class actions hinders access to the courts. It also limits the relief that the LRC is able to seek on behalf of its clients.
This case raises important and far-reaching issues as to availability of class actions as a procedure for instituting actions and the procedures to be adopted when instituting class actions. Its outcome will have material consequences for access to justice, and for the viability of the realisation and effective enforcement of the rights of the people and interests the LRC seeks to represent. Those rights are of course empty unless they can be realised.
The LRC is an independent, non-profit, public interest law clinic, which uses law as an instrument of justice to provide legal services for the vulnerable.