The commission is deeply concerned at the scourge of racism that vexes our country and continues to undermine dignity
A TOTAL of 134 cases were reported to the Human Rights Commission in the Northern Cape in 20125/16.
This is according to the South African Human Rights Commission’s annual trends analysis report for the 2015/16 financial year.
The report states that 59 percent of the complaints reported in the Province were accepted by the commission – the Northern Cape being one of the few provinces that has consistently accepted more than 50 percent of the complaints it received.
“On average the Northern Cape accepted just over two-thirds of the complaints it received between 2012 and 2016.”
In presenting the report, the commission stated that it was concerned by the rate of human rights violations in the country.
“The commission notes with concern the poor infrastructure and lack of essential medication and shortage of staff at some public hospitals and clinics, the lack of access to sufficient water and basic sanitation particularly to the residents of informal settlements and rural areas, the lack of access to adequate housing, the administration of corporal punishment at schools despite such punishment having been outlawed many years ago, and many other violations of rights that undermine the transformational imperatives of the constitution,” the report stated.
“Most of all, the commission is deeply concerned at the scourge of racism that vexes our country and continues to undermine dignity.”
It stated that it would request relevant organs of state to provide it with information on the measures that they have taken towards the realisation of the rights in the Bill of Rights concerning housing, health care, food, water, social security, education and the environment.
“Given the scourge of racism, the commission will liaise with the relevant organs of state to implement measures aimed at the achievement of equality in the areas of responsibility by eliminating any form of unfair discrimination or the perpetuating of inequality in any law, policy or practice.”
According to the report, the commission received a total of 749 equality-related complaints, 505 of which were on the basis of race, nationally.
“Allegations of discrimination on the basis of disability and ethnic and social origin respectively comprised the second and third common grounds of unfair discrimination. The commission’s statistics demonstrate that despite the constitution and the plethora of anti-racism laws, racism remains endemic in South Africa.”
In terms of alleged violations of socio-economic rights, access to health care services, food, sufficient water and social security were consistently among the top five rights violations.
Complaints regarding housing and education were also received.
At a provincial office level, the commission reported that the right to equality remained the right most frequently litigated by the commission in the Equality Courts.
“Most of these cases involve the use of the ‘k-word’ and other derogatory comments with racial undertones, such as use of the terms ‘baboon’ or ‘monkey’.”
Looking specifically at the Northern Cape, a total of 134 complaints were received in the 2015/16 financial year. This was the lowest number in the last four years, with 233 complaints recorded in 2012/13, 248 in 2013/14 and 160 in 2014/15.
Of the complaints received in the Northern Cape, 79 (59 percent) were accepted and 52 were rejected.
Complaints rejected are those where there was no human rights violation, the violation took place before 1994, or the matter was before another legal forum.
A total of 32 of the complaints in the Northern Cape related to equality which, according to the commission, often related to the use of racial epithets and other derogatory remarks such as ‘baboon’ or ‘monkey’.
“These incidents of racial discrimination take place across spectrums of society including schools, universities, businesses and the workplace,” the report stated.
In the Northern Cape, a total of 23 of the equality complaints received related to race.
The commission pointed out that in terms of labour relations complaints lodged, most of which related to unfair dismissal and unfair labour relations, other statutory institutions had the jurisdiction to deal with labour disputes and most of these were referred to the CCMA.
In the Northern Cape, the commission did not deal with any labour relations issues.
Health care, food, water and social security were third on the list of the top five rights violations received by the commission.
“Complaints relating to these rights have gradually increased over the past four financial years under review.”
The commission pointed out that the increase in complaints relating to health care services, water, food and social security appear to coincide with the general trends of protest action over the lack or insufficient delivery of basic services in various communities in South Africa.
“Typically, the right to access health care services generated complaints about the poor state of affairs in hospitals and clinics. Issues included poor working conditions, staff shortages, shortage of medication and essential drugs, training of personnel, building infrastructure, equipment, emergency transportation, and waiting times in these public health establishments,” the reports stated.
“The water related complaints are lodged by individuals and communities who have no, or limited, access to sufficient water. Others are lodged by complainants whose water supply had been discontinued by the water service authority.”
The commission stated that inequalities in access to water was evident in South Africa.
In the Northern Cape, the commission received a total of 24 complaints regarding health care, food, water and social security. Ninety percent of these complaints were accepted.
Also part of the top five complaints received were those relating to the rights of arrested, detained and accused persons, mostly from inmates requesting assistance to secure copies of trial transcripts as well as assistance with appeals against their convictions or sentences or both.
These complaints are usually referred to Legal Aid South Africa or to the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services.
Other complaints from inmates in correctional centres relate to their living conditions and/or treatment they receive, which are usually referred to the Office of the Judicial Inspectorate.”
In the Northern Cape a total of nine complaints were received, two of which were accepted.
Last on the list of top five rights violations were complaints relating to just administrative action.
“Administrative justice aims, inter alia, to ensure good governance and administration, ensure fair dealing in an administrative context, enhance protection of the individual against abuse of state power, promote public participation in decision making, and strengthen the notion that public officials are answerable and accountable to the public they are meant to serve.”
A total of 379 of the complaints received by the commission in 2015/16 financial year related to alleged violations of the right to just administrative action.
“By and large, these were lodged by persons who are aggrieved by decisions of government departments such as the Department of Home Affairs, Social Development and others. Others relate to alleged maladministration by organs of state. Such complaints are generally referred to other institutions, such as the Public Protector, for resolution.”
A total of seven complaints were received in the Northern Cape regarding administrative action.