The State of Human Rights in SA pre-and-during Covid-19

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The Student Governance and Development unit recently held a virtual Human Rights dialogue on the State of Human Rights in South Africa – pre- and during COVID-19.

Human Rights month is commemorated in March to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa on 21 March 1960.

The Student Governance office thought it important to hold this dialogue to foster student engagement and perspective as well as highlight the importance of commemorating Human Rights Day.

Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, Vice-Chancellor, gave a message of support and applauded the efforts of the Student Governance Office.

 ‘’Human Rights Day is very important for the country and especially for this Institution. Future generations must continue to celebrate and remember Human Rights Day because it is a day when freedom was fought for bringing us to where we are today. Education is one aspect of how we can improve the human rights record of our country. We are fighting against a lot of things on campus such as Gender-Based Violence (GBV) - one other area of how people’s rights can be violated.  We should intensify and double our efforts in fighting GBV.’’

During her address Dr Bellita Banda said Covid-19 has changed the face of socio-economic rights amongst South Africans.  “There is historical inequality such as poverty, health, and the right to an education that we are still trying to find a solution for. Covid-19 has deepened inequalities and has had a detrimental impact on society. We need to make sure that no one is left behind regardless of who they are. We need to find out what measures have been taken by the university to ensure socio-economic and human rights are not impacted.  We must realize that the pandemic has exposed many injustices and develop policies to address those”.

There was also an interactive conversation by three panelists:

  • Sithenkosi Lungisa, Public Administration Lecturer and PhD candidate
  • Nolwazi Mabindisa, Student and Soccer Coach, and
  • Likhona Peter, UFH alumnus (MA Political Science) and a Researcher in Parliament

Nolwazi Mabindisa spoke about government inefficiency in safeguarding people’s rights. ‘’The constitution of South Africa states that everyone has the right to have their dignity protected, but many have argued that the dignity of many has not been protected by our government during the pandemic.   Patriarchy leads to numerous cases of GBV.’’

Sithenkosi Lungisa focused on the land dispossession that South Africa experienced. He emphasized that Human rights cannot be fully realized until the land question is addressed. He recommended the urgent amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution as a means to redress inequality.

Likhona Peter asserted that Human Rights in South Africa are trampled on in all sectors. ‘’Children learning under dire circumstances, crossing overflowing rivers by foot just to access education. Service delivery is very selective, for instance, police and protection services respond quicker in affluent areas meanwhile in the poor areas they take hours before arriving at the scene. I call upon everyone to respect other people’s rights and these rights.’’

Coordinator of the Human Rights Dialogue, Yolokazi Mfutho, thanked all participants for sharing their perspectives on how to advance human rights.

by Asaduma Baloyi