Releasing its eighth annual Human Rights Report Card on the eve of Human Rights Day on Monday, the Center for Constitutional Rights said looking back to how far South Africa has gone since the establishment of its Constitution and Bill of Rights 20 years ago, South Africa could be applauded for its role in ensuring human right gains though much more is expected of it.
According to the center’s legal officer Phephelaphi Dube, despite all that has been achieved so far, the achievement of equality remains an elusive goal with South Africa’s Gini coefficient measuring 0.66, up from last year’s 0.596 and that this indicated a highly unequal society, with some reports placing South Africa as one of the most unequal society in the world.
Though South Africa had established the Employment Equity Act which was meant to ensure greater equality in work places, Dube said the strict use of workplace quotas in fulfilling the legislation had been challenged particularly in the public service sector.
He also added that though the statistics of violent crimes in the country has declined in the past 10 years, the crime rate was still prevalent and 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. He said pointing out that Violence against children and women, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) individuals is also at extremely high levels.
Dube also said 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.
To him, this has in turn affected the citizen’s ability to enjoy their socio-economic rights one of which is the country’s drought which has impeded on the people’s right to water and food. So also is the Land reform which he said is an important constitutional issue that government had to improve on.
Appraising the country’s effort, 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 doing well in fulfilling their mandate in deepening democracy by creating avenues through which South Africans could seek recourse for human rights abuses or state impropriety.
Meanwhile, as SA celebrates Human Rights day on Monday, March 21st, hundreds of people gathered in Sharpeville Township to commemorate events that forever changed the course of SA’s history. Those that attended the ceremony were reminded of the long and hard fight for democracy.
56 years ago, police opened fire on thousands of unarmed anti-pass protesters in Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg, killing 69 and injuring 180.
The day was a turning point in the fight against apartheid as it created a crisis for the government both locally and internationally.
President Jacob Zuma is therefore expected to deliver an anti-racism message at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal on Monday to mark the day.