SA rights record on the AU dock in Gambia
from MOMODOU DIBBA in Banjul, Gambia & MTHULISI SIBANDA
BANJUL, (CAJ) – SOUTH Africa has at last presented its Human Rights Report to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights for the first time in over a decade.
After such a lengthy period and the widely-condemned events that have occurred during the period raising doubts on the country’s commitment to safeguarding these rights, the country’s presentation was always going to be under scrutiny from the commission during its 58th Ordinary Session in Banjul, Gambia.
The Southern African country has suffered some crises in recent years, most infamously a spate of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals.
This came under the spotlight, when the country presented its 21-page report on Monday and Tuesday.
The presentation came in the wake of human rights groups have reported the asylum application system is riddled with corruption and inefficiency, disenfranchising thousands of foreign nationals that have sought sanctuary in South Africa.
A high number of immigrants are economic refugees, who see South Africa as offering better opportunities despite its economic problems of recent years.
In a tragic development, the recurrent of xenophobic attacks in South Africa also featured.
These received widespread condemnation regionally and internationally in 2008 when scores of foreign nationals, the death toll stood at 56, were killed and property worth millions of Rands was lost as locals engaged in an orgy of violence accusing foreign nationals of ‘taking’ their jobs, taking their women and resources.
The skirmishes happened mostly in Gauteng, the country’s economic hub as well as parts of the Western Cape Province.
More than 200 000 of refugees (foreigners) living in South Africa were while South Africa’s constitution was most liberal, he argued there were a number of glares that compromised the upholding of human rights.
“It is one thing to have a beautiful Constitution and quite another to have beautiful human rights credentials,” said the law advocate.
He said the country has also not done its international human rights record any good by previously shooting down international discussions on Zimbabwe and Burma among others.
“More worrisome is the pretence that xenophobia is a common crime when it is institutionalized hate fanned by reckless rhetoric by people in power.
“The South African Human Rights Commission’s ruling on King Zwelithini’s utterances against foreigners reinforces the perception that it is now very much compromised, as distinct from the Public Protector’s office,” Shumba said.
He called for accountability for culprits perpetrating torture, xenophobia and the deadly violence in Marikana, where police shot dead more than 30 striking miners in 2012.
“The country is sick of wasted resources in the form of endless commissions when the courts are there. We need hate crime laws that prevent (disgraced racist Penny) Sparrows from acting the way they do,” said Shumba.
Commenting on the latest human rights development in the continent, chairperson of the Commission and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Pansy Tlakula, expressed pleasure South Africa had finally fulfilled the long outstanding obligations of presenting its human rights report.
“For our part as the African Commission, we are pleased that South Africa has eventually fulfilled its reporting obligations under the African Charter and Womens Protocol after failing to do so for many years,” Adv. Pansy Tlakula.
Other countries that presented theirs were Namibia, Ethiopia, Botswana among others.
– CAJ News
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