'Greatest human rights violation is poverty'

2012-03-21 22:52

Johannesburg - SA Human Rights Commission deputy chairperson Pregs Govender said apartheid police were blinded by fear and hatred when they opened fire on protesters in Sharpeville.

She said in modern South Africa poverty was the greatest human rights violation.

"Sixteen million people, mostly woman, in rural areas have no access to sanitation," said Govender.

She highlighted the unenclosed toilets in the Western Cape and the Free State as examples of post-apartheid human rights violations.

Value human rights

During a Human Rights Day celebration in Kliptown, Soweto, on Wednesday, President Jacob Zuma said South Africans must not take freedom and human rights for granted.

"Let us celebrate the right to life, equality before the law, human dignity, freedom and security of the person, freedom from slavery servitude or forced labour," Zuma said at a Human Rights Day celebration in Kliptown, Soweto.

"The right to privacy, freedom of movement, religion, belief and opinion, as well as the rights of workers, women and children.

"On this day, let us join hands to celebrate our Constitution and in particular, the Bill of Rights."

He said the anti-apartheid protests in Sharpeville and Langa in the 1960s were used to assert people's right to work and live in urban areas.

"They were also reflecting the poverty and under-development in rural areas and then Bantustans.

Legacy of underdevelopment

"Our infrastructure plan is intended to tackle the legacy of decades of underdevelopment and to respond to the basic needs of all our people," said Zuma

The infrastructure plan recognised that black people were no longer temporary visitors.

"They are city dwellers, they have rights," said Zuma.

He said cities should not be the only places with lights and tap water.

"Infrastructure for development is also about connecting rural communities to economic opportunities through building dams and irrigation systems."

Zuma said it would connect farms and villages to the energy grid and build schools and clinics in rural areas.

Human Rights Day was previously known as Sharpeville Day to commemorate the shooting of 69 unarmed black protesters by the police in 1960.

The crowd at Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown burst out in cheers when Zuma walked around the square.

Tight security

Security was tight around him with orange-jacketed marshals forming a human chain around him and his bodyguards pushing photographers away.

Zuma was accompanied by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane.

A lone protester greeted the morning crowd with a poster at the entrance to the square asking the ANC about its conscience.

"ANC where is your conscience? Sharpeville 21 March 1960," the placard read.

This was in relation to protests in the Vaal, where residents were complaining that the Human Rights Day was being hijacked from them.

They wanted the event to be celebrated in Sharpeville.

Human Rights Day was celebrated in Kliptown, Soweto where the Freedom Charter was developed and adopted in 1955.

The Freedom Charter became a guiding document in the fight for liberation, it also calls for democracy and human rights, land reform, labour rights, and nationalisation.

For all South Africans

Cope leader Mosioua Lekota said Human Rights Day was for all South Africans and not for a particular area.

"When Indians were forcibly removed it was a human rights violation," he said.

He also lamented the absence of political parties at the event,

"This is a national event. On this day we must forget about our differences."

Only the ruling ANC, Azanian Liberation Organisation (Azopo) and Cope were present at the event.

Lekota said political parties must educate South Africans on the fact that human rights were not about the Sharpeville and Langa massacres.

"It is about human rights," he said.

Lekota who defected from the ANC in 2008 to form Congress of the People, the name echoes the 1955 Congress of the People at which the resistance movement developed and adopted the Freedom Charter, said the charter served to consolidate an alliance of the anti-apartheid forces of the 1950 and protect human rights.

A jubilant crowd broke into Zuma's trade mark song, Umshini wami [bring me my machine gun] after Zuma had spoken on Wednesday.

  • Sean - 2012-03-21 23:03

    Hmmm ! Poverty ! Make less babies !!

      Oscar - 2012-03-22 04:43

      Agreed, poverty in it self is not a human rights violation but the root cause of poverty is where the violations come in e.g. government corruption, nepotism, incompetence etc. Face the facts, this ANC government has no clue nor plan how to fix poverty in the country and the bomb is ticking.

      Oscar - 2012-03-22 05:22

      I am new to commenting on News 24, can anyone tell me why the comments made counter is not working?

      Koos - 2012-03-22 06:35

      It is an ancESTOR counter. Eish, it is not wekking!

      Mattewis - 2012-03-22 06:50

      The entitlement culture present in this previously disadvantaged society finds anything and everything to blame for their lack of achievement! I do not think that making less babies really is the answer to their problem. They should just bring up the babies they do make, to be responsible hard-working adults!

      Amanda - 2012-03-22 07:43

      Agree totally, less babies. With the billions that is bleeding into the pockets of the corrupt government employees and their families and friends there could be improvement in housing and schooling. And could somebody pleases explain (if it will penetrate their sculls) to the people who are burning down schools and vandalising buildings that they are still the only one's that are going to suffer from lack of education and services. Promises, promises and still more promises for their votes are not going to improve their circumstances. The ANC are partying while this country is burning!

      Cilla - 2012-03-22 08:57

      So you think poor people all have children? Poverty has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of babies you have. Poor people like anyone else turns to their spouse for love. You don't think they should have feelings. People who make the same comment as you are ignorant and don't have the sense to feel embarrassed at this statement. At 62, the fact that my husband and I live in poverty has nothing to do with children (we have none) but everything to do with the state of the economy, the cost of living, petrol and an income insufficient to cover the needs of most pensioners to eat and have access to their healthcare. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, when we live in a country where the government steals money at every turn, gives the people nothing, blaming poverty of less children. Mahatma Ghandi himself said, "Poverty is the worst form of violence."

      HiJack - 2012-03-22 10:30

      Mabel, allot of love can be had without following through and making a baby. Duh.

  • Francois - 2012-03-21 23:25

    Will it not be better and cheaper to develop the rural areas instead of building roads to the rural areas from the cities? These will obviously be a bit of a problem with the skills of the rural people as government wants them uneducated so that government can continue to buy their votes with the occasional food hamper and government does not need to make a stand against SADTU. If poverty is the greatest human right violation, why don't we get the money that was corruptly gained back from cadres and the Arms deal? Fork tongued, are you not, Zuma?

      Tanie - 2012-03-22 01:24

      Franco, you make sense since your blonde girlfriend left you. Anyway, these guys are saying this sort of things to the people who do not understand what they are saying, if they said their crap to me I would have pi88ed on their face. They are the ones who are ensuring that poverty will continue to be a commodity for political gain.

  • Blip - 2012-03-21 23:43

    Overblown nonsense! You make a deal with a community to supply FREE flush toilets and they agree to enclose them. Then it's a "human rights violation" when they -- the recipients of a free sanitation service-- do not keep up their end of the bargain they themselves struck? Remember, these people CHOSE, democratically, rather to each have a personal loo right outside their shack rather than to have a communal fully-enclosed ablution block. And they had the money, skills and means to build their own dwelling. Walling a toilet is easy-peasy.

  • Frank - 2012-03-22 01:32

    Only in Africa - Human Rights Day 2012 - the crowds sing "Zuma's trade mark song, Umshini wami", half the country is burning and the mega-corrupt, chief criminal, banana president sprouts the same old lies about the rosy future. Viva ANC, viva.

      Oscar - 2012-03-22 05:17

      ...average IQ of 70 springs to mind.

      John - 2012-03-22 05:58

      Oscar, if you cracked that double bump skull open a bunch of moths would fly out.

      Koos - 2012-03-22 06:39

      when he need brain surgery he goes to a carpenter.

      Amanda - 2012-03-22 07:49

      JZ can make all the promises he wants to, there is just not enough money in the state's coffers. Anything to get votes.

  • John - 2012-03-22 05:53

    YadaYadaYada same old smoke and mirrors BS and the crowd cheers, meanwhile showerhead and his cronies commit "Human Rights Violations" 24/7 365. Why was he singing his "bring me my machine gun" song if he meant anything else?

  • Silvana - 2012-03-22 05:56

    "Zuma and the Gangsta Comrades" singing the same golden oldies. No wonder SA can't move forward. Nothing constructive has come out of this bunch. They're still stuck in the "struggle" and need to fuel racism to stay in power.

      magriet.potgietermuller - 2012-03-22 08:13

      EXACTLY!!! Need to keep apartheid alive to stay in power!

  • Garth - 2012-03-22 06:11

    "Sixteen million people, mostly woman, in rural areas have no access to sanitation," said Govender.' Yep, that is the reason for the refugees pouring out of anc mismanaged provinces into the DA managed Western Cape. `The infrastructure plan recognised that black people were no longer temporary visitors.' So what about the rest of the population. Any human with half-a-brain should be able to deduce from this that the useless, worthless anc has only the interests of the blacks at heart. That blind fool govender does not realise that she and her ilk will be the first on the ships back `home', if the criminal, racist anc get to change our constitution. And the best tit-for-tat that these mouthpieces can throw at the opposition is toilets without walls. Half the story as usual . . . but I suppose that is how one retains the ignorant as one's voter base.

      Blip - 2012-03-22 06:26

      Sixteen million people? That's one-third of the entire population! Are you saying that after 18 long years of being in power, the ruling regime are still in default of supplying BASIC service delivery to a whopping one in every three of their citizens? If that isn't an EPIC FAIL then what is?

  • John - 2012-03-22 06:30

    ""President Jacob Zuma said South Africans must not take freedom and human rights for granted."" People please help me here I must have missed something. How can anyone take human rights for granted in SA when it was written into the CONSTITUTION (law) and they declared a National Holiday to commemorate the fact. What really Pees me off is that this ^$##&%*^&* thinks we are all morons. How can the citizens of SA be so blind as to keep putting this #$%$^*&* into power when he has no respect for our intelligence. Mr showerhead stop talking and get to doing something, your blah blah blah is insulting to those who have been waiting all these years for service deliveries. Give up a few shopping sprees overseas and tend to the people who fought for their freedom and destroy the old machine gun while you're at it..

  • Zion - 2012-03-22 06:36

    The Human Rights Commission must first decide on the origins of poverty before they shoot their mouths off.

  • malcolm - 2012-03-22 07:46

    The ANC supporters have more rights than anywhere in the world. They have freedom of movement, freedom of speech for the moment,freedom of press for the moment. They have the right to get rich. They have the right to work.They have the right to decent health care.They have the right to a decent police force to protect them. Most importantly, when their quality of life hasn't improved in almost 20 years of living under a lying, corrupt, nepotist ANC government, they have the right to vote for another government. It probably wont happen, but at least they only have themselves to blame for their own downfall.

  • kseyffert - 2012-03-22 07:55

    Poverty human rights violation? I disagree. There are those who will always be poor no matter how you try to help them. While I agree that for many it's not a matter of choice and they DO need a helping hand to get started so it's certainly right to put programs in place to help them there will ALWAYS be poor who are quite happy to just sit around and survive on handouts expecting the government to provide. This is NOT the governments job. The Government must provide an environment that is conducive to growth and it is the responsibility of the individuals to make that growth happen. Lets be fair though and provide support for those that need it but remember that sooner or later they do have to stand on their own two feet!

      Phd - 2012-03-22 09:20

      Try 'helping' the 'disadvantaged' and you will probably get murdered, robbed, raped in the process. I know because we try all the time in deepest rural KZN to help. Fortunately not murdered or raped yet. Robbed and burgled yes. Often. In a so-called Anally Native Cretin run municipal area, there is no sanitation, no water, poor roads, exorbitant transportation and blah blah blah. The usual. Nothing for the people by their supposed leaders. They do not own their land, it is all owned by dear little King Goodwill Zwelethini - hundreds of thousands of hectares of it and he does b-all to improve their lives. A 98% unemployment rate in the area. Functionally illiterate adults. No medical support. Unless we provide all of the above plus schools in this community they would have less than ZERO. But no, go right ahead and demonize the farmers, the white and apartheid for TRYING TO HELP the useless and hopeless voting fodder.

  • daryn.wickham - 2012-03-22 08:02

    Yes lets get off the Sharpville issue as what were those people doing protesting with their CHILDREN ? Protesting I understand but to take innocent kids and babies with ? #justsaying and then the Poverty Human Rights Violation is true, the ANC is 100% responsible for this. They bussed people in from their home towns and brought them in to bring the votes up, and where do they sit now? In the same place, with no water, no house and no sanitation. Uprooting people for the ANC's selfish gains and then leaving them unprovided for. Now thats a human rights violation.

  • magriet.potgietermuller - 2012-03-22 08:08

    Yes Shaun - my thoughts exactly!!!! Start taking responsibility for your own life!!! Start working!!! Stop making children that you cannot support or feed, and then stop blaming the "rich" people or "first world" or "capitalism", whatever you want to call it, for your poverty. Stop keeping the first world hostage for your bad planning and incompetence to plan your life, your incompetence to create work and wealth, your out of control population growth!! If you do not have work or an income, you cannot have 12 children that YOU made and dumped into poverty - and then you blame the first world for not having food to eat! Start thinking for yourselves!!! Get rid of your corrupt governments and then stop making so many babies!! that will be a great start to end your poverty!

      Paul - 2012-03-22 09:25

      agreed! totally but another point to ponder the poverty stricken people more often than not have more disposable income than the people who have less children and live in a house which they paying back. and so much for poverty when there so many DSTV dishes mounted to informal houses? i can't afford that so i must be really really poor. but the government lacks the proverb . . . give a man a fish and he doesn't I'm hungry for a day but teach a man to fish and he never goes hungry.

      Manu - 2012-03-22 11:19

      Paul so in your mind a shack dweller with DSTV is better off than a person living in the suburbs paying off a mortgage on say a R 2 million home? Have you ever been poor because your comment suffers from a total lack of insight into poverty? The issue of poverty is far more complex than just money or the number of babies a person has.

  • rory.short1 - 2012-03-22 08:20

    I think one of the greatest ongoing human rights violations in current day SA is the sort of unspoken assumption by those in power that those not in power are unable to help themselves and this is reflected in legislation that either restricts economic freedom of the individual or does not promote it.

  • Carry - 2012-03-22 08:32


  • Carry - 2012-03-22 08:39

    This is ZOOma - the man making R400 million renovations to his home, promising to uplift the standard of living for his so-called followers. More than 16 years in power, little or no improvement in the standard of living, billions being stolen from the country's coffers ...... and so on and so on. This man only lies when his lips move.

  • Vaal-Donkie - 2012-03-22 08:40

    If 10 000 youths descend on my workplace with murderous intent, I, too, will open fire.

  • brionyl.french - 2012-03-22 08:48

    Yeah a great government we have hey??? The poor just get poorer and live in worse conditions than ever before... but this is a democratic and great government, wait till those people realise and vote DA, then what will the ANC do?

  • radek.tanski - 2012-03-22 09:07

    Human rights aside, when humans are in a stressful environment (like poverty), they breed. This is a natural way of maximizing survival, as with many children, some will die, but some will survive.

  • magriet.potgietermuller - 2012-03-22 09:08

    How many decades or millennia does the Third World (the poor,"have-nots")need before they are going to realise that the recipe they have been following all these years are NOT WORKING!!! The recipe they have been following is: dictatorship, corrupt governments, wars, making too many babies that they cannot feed/support, existing only from day-to-day, not planning or thinking about tomorrow - "I need to save for tomorrow", I need to farm responsible - preserving the land for tomorrow!!! Not getting educated, sit around in the dust and flies waiting for the First World, or for someone to solve all their problems and poverty!!! They sit around for years (while crying poverty all the time), waiting for the wealth to be created around them, and then one good day they stand up and say now this wealth around us belongs to us, it was stolen from us by the colonialists!! This is the story of Africa and the Third World. Always someone else to blame for their miserable life!! This IS the bigger picture!! Poverty will not end before this fatal recipe that the third world follows, change.

  • Bianca - 2012-03-22 09:15

    People in SA have no idea what poverty is... Just look at the rest of Africa. Difference is, people of SA still try to find someone to cast blame on instead of helping themselves. The rest of Africa make an effort to do something about their situation.

  • Andre - 2012-03-22 09:33

    The ANC is worse than the apartheid regime ever was. All they can do is blame the white man for everything they are incapable of doing themselves, forgetting civilization and economic prosperity was created by the whiteman. They struggle to do something for themselves. Also remember that these people came from the bush, their natural environment. It is shamefull that zuma and his kind make millions out of raping state tenders, while those un-educated and poor keeping them in power still get nothing in return. God have mercy on their soles.

  • Manu - 2012-03-22 09:57

    It's easy for rich or middle class folk to say, "Oh they are poor because they want to be", or "Why do they have so many babies?" It's easy for you to say this because you have never been poor. Your impressions of poverty are all formed from the cover of Times magazine or that one time you drove past a township. Those of us who have been poor know better. Poverty isn't just a condition of lacking money. More than anything it's a social and mental prison that for most is difficult to escape. Poor people are anchored down by problems that many of you self righteous lot here can scarcely imagine. If you think that getting out of poverty is simple then here is a test for you. Suppose that this very instant I took all your money and earthly possessions and then took your entire family and dumped the lot of you in the middle of a township. Tell me how you would crawl your way out of the township and rearn your original wealth. You make it sound as if its easy so you should have no difficulty answering this question.

      Bibi - 2012-03-22 11:16

      Well, I am a white South African and grew up on the (very) wrong side of the tracks in Pretoria with my aunt and her drunken abusive husband. I went to work at 16 (sorting mail in a company), returned to do matric and worked two jobs to put me trough varsity as being a poor white was as bad as being black in those days. Some days I was ready to give up and just wallow in bitterness and self pity. I persevered and today I am part of a very happy family unit. Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that. - Norman Vincent Peale

      Manu - 2012-03-22 11:44

      Good so you are somebody who has experienced poverty and overcome it through sheer will power. I will hazard to say that you are an exception and not the rule. For most poor folk that will to stay the course is very difficult because most have not been taught self discipline (particularly at a young age). As you pointed out yourself many times you thought of giving up. That is why I say that when some here speak of poverty as if it were some old skin that you can shed off they don't know what they are talking about ... and I speak with the experience of somebody who has been poor. There are friends and neighbours that I left behind that still live in poverty. I won't be one of those who will be quick to judge them because I know how difficult it is to get out. You can be the smartest person in the world and still fail to make it out.

      Bibi - 2012-03-22 11:56

      @Manu: you are right and coming where I come from, I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for under privileged people and has made it my mission to do something about it. And true it is damn hard to get out of that 'hole', but the government need to move forward with it and not keep everybody in the past. And for very wealthy ministers who came by their wealth with dubious and criminal ways and then go on to talk about HR violations etc while they are the violators themselves, is just ludicrous. Education is the key, but the government keeps on stuffing it up and only education can give you the will and self worth to go forward.

      Bibi - 2012-03-22 12:05

      @Manu: I live in Kenya (my 4th African country) now and after almost 50 years of independence and promises, the poor has stayed exactly that in all these countries. You have no idea. With every election, they vote for the same crooked politicians because somewhere inside them they would like to believe them. but truth is these guys live mostly from Western Aid and handouts. The politicians here are some of the wealthiest guys in Africa. I think that in every country in the world, there will be rich and poor, the haves and the have nots.

      Manu - 2012-03-22 12:59

      Is government at fault? Well yes and no. Every country has poor people. Go to the US and they have poverty that you wouldn't believe, and yet they are highly developed. Even western europe countries with their socialist policies have problems with poverty. The best a government can do is provide avenues out of poverty but after that it is up to the poor to find their way out. Unfortunately most poor people have a difficulty seeing the bigger picture and because of that their decision making is compromised. Take a simple thing like pension or planning for ones old age. To you and me it means saving and taking out a life insurance. To poor folk planning for the future equals having children to take care of you in your old age. Short of imposing draconian measures it's very difficult for any government to correct this mindset. When a society chooses to adopt democracy as a standard then that society also has to take the responsibility to set standards of what it expects from its members. Kindness, Charity, Excellence, Humility, and so on. The problem with Africa is that because of it's colonial history no single standard has been defined. So everyone makes a standard as they go along.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-22 10:04

    Poverty is a self inflicted predicament not a violation of human rights, the South African tendency to try blame apartheid for everything is being recognized internationally as the lame excuse it is.

  • magriet.potgietermuller - 2012-03-22 10:50

    YOU, Government, you are the one keeping racism/poverty etc. alive - you are fueling it every day, you need to keep apartheid alive because that is the main reason the ANC exists!! People and populations of countries (all over the world, not only in SA)must realise that they are being used and lied to, by politicians for two reasons: 1) a politician wants your vote and 2) a government wants your tax money. That is ALL that you and I, citizens of countries, are good for!!! Politicians brainwash people with very cleverly thought-out slogans to get your vote, promising people a bunch of b*&^%it lies!! You keep on talking about issues like poverty, racism etc. without doing something constructive yourselves to get rid of the real problems in society, while you are busy stealing the tax payer's money to enrich yourselves. You are corrupt, who are you to talk about poverty!!! You feel nothing for the poor people, you have no intention of getting rid of poverty. You want to keep people oppressed, poor and uneducated because you are afraid that they will see you for who you are as soon as they become educated! And while people are poor and uneducated you can keep using it for your political gain, brainwashing people into believing that their poverty is apartheid or the racist colonialist's fault! WAKE UP PEOPLE, WAKE UP MASSES!! You are being misled once again by lying politicians.

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