'Equality remains the right with the most complaints' - SAHRC

18 March 2021 - 07:00 By nomahlubi sonjica
The SA Human Rights Commission says it has seen an increase in complaints about human rights violations.
The SA Human Rights Commission says it has seen an increase in complaints about human rights violations.
Image: 123RF/alexskopje

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) continues to receive complaints relating to equality, just administrative action and economic social rights violations, 27 years after the country achieved its democracy.

Each year the country commemorates Human Rights Day, which was previously known as Sharpeville Day. On March 21 1960, 69 protesters were killed by apartheid police in Sharpeville while demonstrating against the pass laws imposed by the government.

Sixty-one years later, many South Africans are still struggling for basic human rights.

According to SAHRC commissioner Andre Gaum, the organisation has seen an increase in equality, just administrative action, and economic and social rights violations.

“Equality has remained the right with the most complaints made to the commission over the past six years,” he said.

The total number of complaints received by the commission, Gaum said, had increased by 13% from the previous financial year.

“Once complaints are received, the commission begins its processes of investigation within days so many that have been received are already being dealt with,” Gaum explained.

One of the complaints the SAHRC has received in the past year concerns the challenges of access to water in Qwaqwa, which led to residents drawing water from nearby rivers. A minor child also drowned while collecting water at one of the rivers.

“As a result of the commission’s intervention, a number of measures have been implemented in the short term to ensure access to water for the community, while the longer-term plan to install the necessary water infrastructure is under consideration,” Gaum said.

He said the commission’s KwaZulu-Natal office had also seen an increase in the number of complaints relating to access to water.

“In a complaint from the Bhamshela community, the commission established that the area did not have access to water due to various infrastructure challenges and an increase in demand.

“As a result of the commission’s intervention, the municipality inspected the existing infrastructure and attended to leaks in the system, and also installed communal taps as an interim measure.”

The SAHRC’s Gauteng office initiated an investigation into the socio-economic conditions in Kliptown informal settlement.

“After preliminary investigations and an inspection, the commission observed various socio-economic challenges, including water infrastructure in need of repair, illegal electricity connections that posed danger to the community, and lack of sewerage infrastructure,” said Gaum.

“The department of human settlements and the city of Johannesburg have agreed to attend to the issues identified by the commission and to provide monthly updates on the various measures being taken to address these issues.”

The commission, according to Gaum, also investigated a matter involving Thabiso Zulu, a whistle-blower who gave testimony in the Moerane commission about political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.

“This matter is significant because it concerns an area of protection not previously dealt with by the commission.

“It also involves a lacuna in the current legal framework for the protection of witnesses and whistle-blowers. The matter was brought on an urgent basis, following Mr Zulu’s various failed attempts to be provided with urgent protection despite an attempted assassination and two state law enforcement agency threat assessments indicating that Mr Zulu’s life was indeed under threat and in need of protection.”

The SAHRC dealt with a complaint against former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi, who used the k-word to refer to black people.

Agrizzi apologised and agreed to donate R200,000 to a charity identified by the SAHRC.

Some of the ongoing complaints the SAHRC is investigating include BLF’s Lindsay Maasdorp’s social media posts in which he stated: “I have aspirations to kill white people, and this must be achieved.”

“The commission is in the process of instituting proceedings against Mr Maasdorp in the equality court. These relate to hate speech violations under the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act,” Gaum said.

The commission is investigating a case of owners of Beloftebos Wedding Venue in the Western Cape, which has allegedly applied, and continues to apply, a policy of refusing to host wedding ceremonies of same-sex couples. 

“They claim to rely primarily on their right to freedom of religion in differentiating between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples in trading with the public by offering their wedding services,” said Gaum.

The SAHRC is investigating complaints pertaining to allegations that Brakenfell High School in the Western Cape discriminated against black matric pupils following the hosting of a matric ball attended only by white pupils.

It is probing the events that culminated in violence and subsequent discharging of a firearm in Senekal, Free State.

“The commission has received numerous complaints relating to the occurrences in Senekal. The matter is still being investigated.”


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