Freedom from poverty important - judge

By Drum Digital
19 November 2013

Freedom from poverty in the South African context is one of the most important freedoms retired Constitutional Court judge Zak Yacoob said.

Freedom from poverty in the South African context is one of the most important freedoms, retired Constitutional Court judge Zak Yacoob said.

Delivering the fifth annual Helen Suzman memorial lecture in Sandton, Yacoob, 65, said that as South Africa's democracy moved towards its 20th anniversary, far too many of its citizens still suffered from poverty.

"The people still suffer. The point is that there are far too many people who suffer. The point is that there are far too many people living a suboptimal existence," Yacoob said.

'People's democracy'

Even though high levels of poverty still existed, the discourse on poverty did not exist.

"I think all of us, in terms of our constitutional structure, need to embrace the notion of freedom from poverty and need to understand how important social and economic rights are," he said.

"We need to understand freedom. A notional freedom without poverty and without equality can't help us a great deal, and so the issue is what kind of democracy are we?.... We should develop ourselves to be a people's democracy."

He asked how many newspapers in the past six months had discussed poverty, especially as it had arguably got worse than it was before.

"Unless we reach a situation where all of us agree on a particular minimum level of humanity and a particular threshold at [which] people would be able to live, and unless we commit ourselves to that, we will be doomed to disaster."

- SAPA

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