Table Talk

'Human rights are fragile': Meet the man protecting our dignity, Chris Nissen

Chris Nissen, the South African Human Rights Commission’s man in charge of monitoring prisons, indigenous rights, mental health and smaller offences, brings an activist’s energy and a pastor’s compassion to the job, writes Claire Keeton on Human Rights Day

21 March 2021 - 00:00 By claire keeton

Human rights commissioner Chris Nissen, 62, has polished black shoes that are well worn. They’re on feet that have been pounding the streets in the struggle for people’s rights for nearly half a century — no wonder he walks fast and has no time for lunch.

Nissen’s calendar for March, written on a whiteboard in his Adderley Street, Cape Town, office, is crammed with trips and commitments. “I try to get to places where commissioners haven’t been,” says Nissen, who has visited all the provinces since lockdown began last March...

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