Human rights and scratching for food on rubbish dumps!

Xolile Mpini

Tue Nov 09 2021 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Until the people of South Africa understand why the cancer of poverty is making searching in rubbish dumps the only way for some of our unfortunate brothers and sisters to stay alive, this shocking blight on our country will be with us.

How many South Africans have seen poor people competing with pigs for scraps of throw-away food at a municipal rubbish dump. This is the shocking experience you endure if you visit many municipal rubbish dumps in rural South African towns. It has made Langeberg Unemployed Forum (LUF) members even more determined to have the cause of the indignity and poverty that these unfortunate people are suffering removed from the laws and regulations.

Until the people of South Africa understand why the cancer of poverty is making searching in rubbish dumps the only way for some of our unfortunate brothers and sisters to stay alive, this shocking blight on our country will be with us. Perhaps if members of Parliament who care about the problem of poverty could observe the bad results of some of the laws they have passed in Parliament, they might start listening to organisations like ours. LUF was formed to work for changes to the laws that stop the unemployed people from getting jobs.

Did the Parliamentarians deliberately plan to make people unemployed? Probably not. But whether it is deliberate, or by accident, because they do not understand, or it is too much trouble for them to find out, the reason does not matter. It is the result that matters.

On 26 March 2019 we lodged a Complaint document with the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) office in Cape Town. The Complaint document explained in detail how the laws and policies adopted in Parliament were having negative consequences for the country’s unemployed people, whose numbers are steadily climbing. To us the reasons for mass unemployment are obvious. It is the strict labour laws, including the minimum wage laws, that are the cause of mass unemployment. If the members of Parliament do not believe what we are saying, we challenge them to put their beliefs to the test.

Take any local government area, such as the Langeberg, and suspend the labour laws, including the minimum wage laws in the area, for a minimum of five years. Our legal adviser tells us that if that is done, the common law can be applied to replace the laws that are causing mass unemployment. We are convinced that with the introduction of such changes, unemployment will reduce rapidly, and businesses will start to grow fast and employ more people. Long term unemployed people in the area can be given Job Seekers Exemption Certificates to help the municipalities to manage the change.

What happened after we submitted our Complaint to the HRC? The answer is, Nothing! We enquired at the Cape Town office and the Head Office and could get no answers. Eventually we got a short letter saying that as we were blaming Parliament for causing mass unemployment by passing bad laws, we should go and complaint to Parliament. We were very shocked and disappointed to receive such an answer from the organisation that was created in the Constitution to protect the human rights of the people in this country.

We have seen that if someone calls another person a bad name the HRC jumps into action straight away. They are there in force, charge the offenders, and make them pay big fines. But when an organisation like LUF tell the HRC that the members of Parliament are committing a crime against the people with laws that make almost 12 million people unemployed, they say “take your complaint to Parliament”. In other words, calling someone a bad name is a worse human rights offence than causing almost 12 million people to be unemployed.

It is like saying to the person who is upset because he or she has been called a bad name, “You have lodged a Complaint that someone has called you a bad name and you say that person has harmed your Human Rights. We suggest you take your complaint to the person who you accuse of doing you harm, and sort it out yourself.”

So, the South African Human Rights Commission is saying to the 12 million unemployed people in South Africa, “It is your own misfortune that you have been made unemployed by laws and regulations coming from Parliament. It is not our problem. Yes, you have mentioned various sections of the Bill of Rights that you say are not being respected by Parliament, that may be true, but we have our own reasons for not wishing to take these matters up with Parliament. So do it yourselves! Take your Complaint to Parliament!”

Langeberg Unemployed Forum Executive Committee Members:
Xolile Mpini (CEO), Vuyo Mrubata, Phumeza Vicane and Ernest Selani.