Why the people are angry
Water and sanitation were two of the main triggers of service-delivery protest, SA Human Rights Commission deputy chairman Pregs Govender said yesterday.
Speaking at the launch of the commission's provincial water and sanitation hearings in Johannesburg, she said the killing of 34 Lonmin workers at Marikana had re-focused the spotlight on living and working conditions, and had brought urgency to the holding of provincial "Water is life; sanitation is dignity" hearings.
The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation recently found that 16million South Africans did not have access to sanitation and that R50-billion was needed to remedy the situation.
Govender said many people who took part in service- delivery protests claimed that the police had been heavy-handed and did not respect their right to peaceful protest.
"The 'shoot-to-kill' statement of government leaders has often been used to justify criminalising people who are poor," Govender said.
The hearings were prompted by the "unenclosed toilets saga" in both DA and ANC municipalities.
She said this was an indication that decision-makers did not respect, listen to, or value people in poor communities.
"In the run-up to the 2010 local government elections, the commission received two complaints about municipalities that had built toilets without enclosures in local municipalities in Western Cape and the Free State. In line with our mandate, the commission investigated these complaints and ruled that both the DA- and ANC-led municipalities had violated the rights to dignity, privacy, and a clean and healthy environment," she said.
But the commission also found that millions more were in the same boat.
It asked the Department of Human Settlements to report on the progress in eradicating the bucket system of sanitation .
The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation found that 84% of households in Mpumalanga lacked sanitation facilities.
The provincial hearings will begin in Gauteng and run until November. A national hearing will be held in March.
Govender said many mining companies were yet to take responsibility for the consequences of their commercial activities.
She said the Bench Marks Foundation had found that local communities "bear the brunt of harmful social, economic and environmental consequences" of mining activity.
The foundation has asked the commission to investigate the effect of mining on the supplies of clean water.