Thu, 20 Jun 2019

Racism still dominates SAHRC complaints

11 Dec 2018, 01:37 GMT+10

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) annual report reveals that the highest number of complaints received at the Chapter 9 body were issues concerning racism.

"Racism still dominates the complaints. The commission received 705 complaints on racism in 2016/17, compared to 643 last year and around 450 in 2013/14.

"I believe that the trends indicate that its majority cases of one-on-one interpersonal racism. The commission also received various complainants on systemic racism," senior legal officer Alexandra Fitzgerald said at the commission's headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Monday.

The commission presented the report on international Human Rights Day, just days after South Africa commemorated the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights on Friday at Constitutional Hill.

The stain of apartheid continued to loom over society, Fitzgerald said."The stats are undeniable; black South Africans are being subjected to routine and frequent discrimination. This questions the effectiveness of transformation efforts."

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Besides race-based complaints, the top five complaints lodged with the commission are rights relating to equality; Section 27 (healthcare, food, water, and social security); arrested, detained, and accused people; labour relations; and just and administrative action.

The 2016/2017 Annual Trends Analysis Report (TAR) provides an analysis of trends and findings in human rights violations over the past five years.

The commission further highlighted that the 132-page report did not reflect all of South Africa's challenges, but challenges that were actually reported to the body.

"Rights knowledge is crucial to rights assertion. If people do not understand their rights, then they won't be able to come to the commission to report their complaints," spokesperson Gail Smith explained.

'We live by the Constitution'

The SAHRC is of the view that South Africa is highly regarded across the globe for its human rights culture.

"There are many countries where it is safe to promote, protect and enforce human rights without fear or favour. The problem is that there are countries where it is extremely dangerous to do, so such as the Philippines. We, as the global bodies, had to intervene.

"We do have many countries on this continent where it is easy, but a lot more where it is difficult to do so. There is a country that has locked up people because they are of a different sexual orientation. It is an issue where Africa has to do more," commission chairperson Bongani Majola said.

Majola further stressed the need for government to support and cooperate with the HRC for it to fulfill its powers.

"We live by the Constitution and it says that there has to be cooperation between the HRC and the government. If that was to be put in place, there would be no need for additional powers, because that would ensure the HRC is supported in executing its mandate," he said.

The need for support from government, however, did not affect the independence of the commission, according to CEO Tseliso Thipanyane.

"There is an obligation for government to fund the commission adequately, however, our funding concerns have not undermined our ability to hold government to account," Thipanyane said.

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