MR NAREND SINGH, MP
Programme Convenor, Leaders of Political parties, representatives of community and cultural organizations, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Today we commemorate Human Rights day in South Africa, amidst our own domestic human rights inadequacies, toils and troubles. It was on this day in 1960 when Pan Africanist Congress 69 sympathisers were shot dead by police during an anti-pass laws protest in the town of Sharpeville and four more, in Langa.
Incidentally this is also the founding day of Inkatha, which inaugurated on this day in 1975 as a cultural organization by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi acting on the mandate and instruction of Oliver Tambo.
The question that we need to be asking is: twenty one years into our constitutional democracy, has the State lived up its Constitutional obligations as enshrined in our Chapter 2: Bill of Rights?
Constitutions it is said, “Are where societies establish the values that are to guide political and social discourse for generations to come, and also where those values are protected by incorporating them as constitutional obligations or rights”
The rise of constitutionalism in the last 50 years has been principally in redress to the horrific legacies of facism, colonialism and communism.
Inherent in the constitution is a vital normative role to express the most cherished values of society.
One court aptly described the constitution as a “mirror reflecting the national soul” and this remark provides us today with great food for thought when we reflect on our situation in South Africa.
In our Constitution, we see in Sections 1, 2, 7, and 237 thereof, the imperative being that the State must protect, advance, and promote all rights contained in the Bill of rights, diligently and without delay.
Yet, in many instances this is not the case, with the State very often falling very short of the mark.
Human rights are interdependent, interrelated and indivisible.
Chapter 2 contains 54 rights, if each section is specifically broken down. These rights are foundational and cornerstones of our democracy and yet in many instances we are witnessing a gradual ‘backsliding’ instead of progressive realization thereof.
South Africa as you know remains one of the most unequal countries in the world with our socio-economic disparities adding fuel to the fire of many of our rights transgressions.
The right to Equality, which is fundamental to the realization of so many other rights, remains itself under siege because of continued bouts of sporadic xenophobic violence that occur around the country, and in which despite so many deaths, no perpetrator of such violence has yet been prosecuted.
LGBT citizens still face massive persecution and harm, particularly in the Eastern Cape Province.
People with disability are still a small minority and are under-represented in the work place and we see that the most common complaints before the Human Rights Commission are those that are racism related. How do we build social cohesion in this kind of environment?
In South Africa in general and here in the Western Cape In particular, we have both high rates of crime and femicide. Murder rates are on the increase and gang related violence, crime and murder is out of control.
Property rights which are under the spotlight at the moment, are without solution because the simple fact of the matter is that the State has no idea as to how much land it owns. Indications are that it will take up the next 200 years to settle just our current land claims.
The rights to health care, food, water and social security improved but little since 2016 and we note in fact significant deterioration in their realization at present.
Children in south Africa remain particularly vulnerable, with 1 in 3 children reported to now be victims of sexual abuse and this together with other crimes against children have risen by 8% this year when measured against the last.
The right to education which is an entrenched right in respect of basic education is eroded by the quality of teaching, the provision of teaching materials and basic infrastructure at the 26000 schools across our country. And although we are seeing more people being educated we are also noting a higher level of dropouts.
Basic Education begins with Early childhood Development. This is even noted in our National development plan and yet ECD remains under Department of Social Development and we all know what a fine mess that department is currently.
The sad fact is that one cannot free if one is uneducated in a modern society like South Africa.
Youth unemployment remains at critical levels and general unemployment in the country is gauged anywhere between 27% and 40%. This is veritable ticking time bomb and recipe for social unrest.
Progressive realization of human rights is an extreme challenge, especially with a state that has been captured, or has been severely handicapped through past instances of capture. There simply are not sufficient resources or effective management of public affairs that is necessary and requisite to the progressive realization of rights.
So if we return to our question posited at the beginning of this debate – on balance the answer would have to be in the negative. The state has clearly failed us and the ramifications are being felt through the various derogations and non-realization of our human rights!
And although it is a truism that sustaining democracy provides just as many if not more challenges than establishing it, this can be no excuse by the State!
So what can we do? And in this respect an active citizenry such as you who are gathered here today are essential as a democratic check and balance and necessary key driver towards our ongoing realization of human rights.
Whilst voting is the most powerful expression of citizens collectively making their voices heard, there are other conventional and unconventional ways of making your voices heard. One just need look at how an active citizenry through sustained and ongoing protest and demonstration action removed a sitting president of the republic.
So an active vocal citizenry can effect political change through measures other than the ballot box, you have a voice, it counts and you must use it in every way that you can.
The Inkatha Freedom Party will partner with you in this and remains committed to ensuring that the 54 rights as enshrined in Chapter 2 of our Bill of rights are realized and become a reality for all South Africans, not just the privileged few, as we collectively seek to make South Africa a better place not only for ourselves, but for our future generations as well.
I thank you.
Narend Singh, MP