ISSUES OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA: COMMEMORATING HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

 

Human rights in South Africa are protected under the constitution. The 1998 Human Rights report by Myles Naidoo noted that the government generally respected the rights of the citizens; however, there were concerns over the use of force by law enforcement, legal proceedings and discrimination. The Human Rights Commission is mandated by the South African Constitution and the Human Rights Commission Act of 1994, to monitor, both pro-actively and by way of complaints brought before it, violations of human rights and seeking redress for such violations. It also has an educational role.

 

Human Rights Day, 21 March

Human Rights Day in South Africa is historically linked with 21 March 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. On that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the Pass laws. This day marked an affirmation by ordinary people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights. It became an iconic date in our country’s history that today we commemorate as Human Rights Day as a reminder of our rights and the cost paid for our treasured human rights.

 

Apartheid Era

Apartheid was a system of segregation and discrimination implemented by a White minority onto the Black majority. For example, Blacks were not allowed to buy land outside of land reserves despite being the indigenous population. Many of South Africa's anti-apartheid laws have been enacted while keeping in mind that what is seen by the international community, human rights organisations, and the Black majority in the country as the social and legal injustices associated with apartheid, and its anti-apartheid message has been hailed as an exemplary face of a Sub-Saharan nation.

 

Education Rights

The South African government has legislated for equal education throughout the country. This legislation includes the White Paper on Education and Training 1995 and the South African Schools Act, Act 84 of 1996.  Nevertheless, there have been issues in the implementation of these laws. The South African government tends to focus primarily on the quality of higher education. However, only 10% of South African students make it to grade 12 in a reasonable number of years. Additionally, there is not much racial integration in state schools. Though laws allow for integration, many schools remain predominantly one race.

 

Rural schools

Most of the Education in South Africa comes from rural schools. In fact, approximately 79% of Black South Africans live in rural communities. However, the government has neglected the quality of education in these rural areas. Issues with rural schooling include: poor facilities, lack of clean water, lack of resources, and unmotivated teachers. Considering poor facilities, some schools are not structurally stable and are at risk of collapse, with some schools even lacking electricity. Most schools with more than 500 children lack proper sanitation for toilets while some schools don't have toilets at all. Furthermore, many rural schools are in remote areas without direct access to clean water. Water is generally kilometres away and unclean because animals bathe and drink in it. This lack of water is a particular issue in the daytime when the temperature is highest. The remoteness of these rural schools is also a particular problem because they are quite distant from pupils' homes. And, many schools do not remedy this issue with transport.  Additionally, many schools lack the needed books and supplies for learning. In June 2010, the Government Gazette recognised that these unfavourable learning environments increase rates of absenteeism of teachers and dropout rates of students. Some students do not have enough food to eat and are hungry during school. This hunger causes a lack on concentration and makes learning environments less favourable.

 

 

Rights for Disabled Children

Though South Africa ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, children with disabilities still do not have equal access to education.  In many situations, a state school is able to determine which students are able to enrol and the school may simply reject a disabled child without any consequences. In cases where the student is able to enrol in a public school, a school may lack the resources necessary to effectively teach children with disabilities. Additionally, children with disabilities in state schools are forced to pay fees—such as for an assistant—that other students are not required to pay. South Africa has schools that cater for students with disabilities, but these schools are limited in number and require fees to be paid. The limited number of schools forces children to either board or use costly transport. In 2000, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was specifically concerned with the lack of implementation of South Africa's agreement to guarantee free primary education. South Africa still struggles to provide free primary education for all. Additionally, many disabled students are not able to access quality education because they are on waiting lists for schools that cater to students with special needs. For example, in 2015, there are approximately 5,552 children with disabilities on waiting lists.

 

Health

South Africa has a plethora of infectious disease cases. Malaria is major cause of death because of a lack of resources to treat patients. Additionally, the water is dirty with human and industrial waste which contributes to the spread of disease. Many deaths are caused by poverty rather than a lack of cures for a disease. Poverty is a major reason for death because poor families are not able to afford proper health services and hospitals are not able to buy enough supplies. Additionally, people living in South Africa who are illegal immigrants lack resources for health care that is non-emergency. For example, many of the people living in the Hillbrow Health Precinct are not legal and have poor health resources. Specifically, some hospital buildings were built before World War II. Furthermore, the Hillbrow community has high rates of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

 

HIV/AIDS

South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. It was first detected in 1982. The disease was first detected in homosexuals, but it rapidly spread to heterosexuals. Because of the rapid spread, the government tried to step in and help. However, South Africa was in the last years of apartheid during the time when HIV/AIDS was becoming an epidemic. Thus, the South African government had great difficulty mitigating the effect of the epidemic. For instance, because of the desegregation of schools and the controversy surrounding that, the government did not focus on providing quality sex education that specifically focused on HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the local and federal governments had contention about the allocation of funds for HIV/AIDS prevention, thus causing inefficiency and gridlock. Also, some of the money allocated to HIV/AIDS prevention was misused. For example, a musical called Serefina II was projected to increase awareness about AIDS and AIDS prevention. However, the play was not clear and did not significantly help with sex education. Much of the HIV/AIDS treatment and progress have been funded by non profit organizations such as W.H.O and UNAIDS.

 

Welfare

Twenty-five percent of South Africans receive some form of government welfare grants, most of whom are female. The 1997 "White Paper on Social Welfare" outlines South Africa's social welfare policy. The White Paper on Social Welfare focuses on providing South Africans with opportunities for increased autonomy. For example, White Paper on Social Welfare stipulates the provision of public works projects. The White Paper also emphasizes the significance of non-state welfare organizations in providing welfare. Such organizations include non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and religious organizations. Additionally, the White Paper focuses on the government providing welfare specifically to families. But, the White Paper has relatively fewer provisions for the elderly. The government expects families to take responsibility for caring their elderly relatives, partly because of cultural values. The White Paper also covered child support grants and refrained from stereotyping concerning the gender roles in a family. For instance, the White Paper did not specifically refer to the male in a household as the "breadwinner". Racial disparities in the cities of South Africa still exist, despite the country's having long since ended apartheid. Many black South Africans still struggle to obtain basic needs such as housing, living in under-maintained townships, while many urban white South Africans reside in gated communities with a heavy presence of private security. The Sowetan Live has recently reported that "...indeed the city has contributed to" building "4,000 social homes in 11 districts" with more than 350,000 residents still in need of immediate housing relief.

 

Political Rights

South Africa has a liberal constitution that protects all basic political freedoms. However, there have been a number of incidents of political repression as well as threats of future repression in violation of this constitution leading some analysts and civil society organisations to conclude that there is or could be a new climate of political repression or a decline in political tolerance.

Political patronage is a significant aspect in South African politics. However, this patronage infringes on the rights of the people, especially those in poverty. 40% of South Africans are dependent on the state to supply necessities. This dependence on the state lessens the autonomy of South Africans in need of this assistance. These necessities are supplied in the form of grants, which require governmental documents to obtain. Consequently, bureaucracy plays a major role in an individual's ability to obtain a grant and thus obtain necessities. Politicians gain substituent based on material promises. If the politicians fulfil these promises, often the recipients are only those who supported the politicians. Essentially, voters dependence on the state precludes their ability to vote based on ideological platforms. This phenomenon does not align with the democratic principles of South Africa.

 

Conclusion

As South Africans commemorate Human Rights Day this March, it is important for citizens to know that The Bill of Rights protects the rights of every South African, and it’s important that all South Africans know their most basic rights afforded to them. These, among others, include the right to equality, human dignity, life, freedom and security, personal privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of association, education and healthcare.

 

Sources
1.Human Rights in South Africa-Wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/.../human-rights.....

 

2. Human Rights Day-Parliament of South Africa

https://www.parliament.gov.za/project.../...

 

3. Human Rights Day | South African Government

https://www.gov.za/human-rights-day

 

4. Human Rights Day: Sharpeville Remembered-The South African

https://www.thesouthafrican.com/human….