SA has made some human rights gains but little to celebrate - centre

2016-03-21 07:53
(File, iStock)

(File, iStock)

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Johannesburg - South Africa has done a lot since the establishment of its Constitution and Bill of Rights more than 20 years ago - but there is still more to do, the Centre for Constitutional Rights says.

"The achievement of equality remains an elusive goal with South Africa's Gini coefficient measuring 0.66, up from last year’s 0.596," the centre's legal officer Phephelaphi Dube said.

"This is indicative of a highly unequal society, with some reports placing South Africa as one of the most unequal societies in the world."

The centre released its eighth annual Human Rights Report Card on the eve of Human Rights Day on Monday.

Dube said although South Africa had established the Employment Equity Act, which was created to ensure greater equality in the workplace, the strict use of workplace quotas in fulfilling the legislation had been challenged, particularly in the public service sector.

Crime

Although the crime statistics had shown a decline in violent crimes in the past 10 years, Dube said the crime rate in South Africa was still at an unacceptably high level.

"This affects the extent to which South Africans can exercise other rights and enjoy certain freedoms, such as the freedom and security of the person, as well as the freedom of movement and residence.

"Violence against children and women, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) individuals is also at extremely high levels," Dube said.

Dube added that the poor performance in various parastatals and apparent political interference in various bodies such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the South African Revenue Service (Sars), and the SAPS impeded the respective organisations' ability to respond to their constitutional mandate.

This in turn affected the ability of South Africans to enjoy some of their socio-economic rights.

The socio-economic impact of the country's recent drought season also had an effect on people's right to water and food, Dube said.

Land reform was also an important constitutional issue that government had to improve on.

Positives

But it was not all doom, Dube said.

"South Africa enjoys a relatively free press and South Africans are, in general, able to express their views freely. More children than ever have access to basic education, although concern remains over the quality of such education," he said.

He said the country's courts, its Chapter 9 institutions, including the Public Protector’s Office and to some extent the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), were fulfilling their mandates of deepening democracy by creating avenues through which South Africans could seek recourse for human rights abuses or state impropriety.

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