Kollapen urges SA to aspire to values in Bill of Rights

2008-05-12 00:00

SOUTH African Human Rights Commission chairman Jody Kollapen challenged South Africans to aspire to and uphold their Constitution and the values that it stands for.

Speaking to academics and researchers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Edgewood campus on Friday, Kollapen made reference to the preamble of the Bill of Rights.

“SA was hailed as a miracle nation after adopting its Constitution … but now we are facing a difficult time.”

He also called for the monitoring of HIV and Aids research to ensure that poor people’s rights are not violated.

He referred to the ongoing Ginwala Commission, the SABC debacle and recent racism incidents and said these are signs that society is losing its vision of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

“Are we slipping away from the vision of Mandela? If I think of the day Mandela was inaugurated today, did I feel then what I feel today? It seems like we are a damaged society,” he said.

Kollapen said the Constitution must “characterise what we are”. He said that human rights are underpinned by certain values that societies uphold.

According to Kollapen, South Africa has covered a tremendous amount of ground in terms of protecting human rights. “We have moved over a million times since 1994, and have set very high standards, but we have to be critical of ourselves. There is still a lot that needs to be done in addressing unemployment, violence, homophobia, xenophobia and sexism.”

He encouraged dialogue about human rights “to provide a framework” for addressing these issues.

In his address, Kollapen also criticised researchers for using poor people as guinea pigs and in the process trampling on their human rights. He said researchers in the process of conducting their research sometimes ignore ethics and violate the rights of vulnerable people.

“Ethics should be the moral compass of our lives, an ongoing consciousness.”

He slammed health researchers who take advantage of the poor.

“There is a concern of researchers who take advantage of poor people when doing HIV and Aids-related research. We can’t allow the advance of research at the expense of poor people,” he said.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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