Langeberg Unemployed Forum protest at SA Human Rights Commission

Xolile Mpini

Sat May 01 2021 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

We will not rest until the Commission does a full investigation of our detailed complaint and sends us a proper reply that we can share with the millions of unfortunate unemployed people of our nation.

Langeberg Unemployed Forum protest at SA Human Rights Commission

On Thursday, 29 April 2021, members of the Langeberg Unemployed Forum (LUF) travelled from Ashton to Adderley Street in Cape Town to the offices of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to picket peacefully about our dissatisfaction with the way the Commission handled our Complaint that was lodged with them on 26 March 2019.

We went to the SAHRC because the unemployed people are desperate. We have lost our dignity and we have no hope of any improvement in conditions if the body that has the constitutional responsibility to protect citizens from abuse of human rights does nothing when the constitutional rights of the unemployed are abused.

When some stupid person calls another person a bad name, the SAHRC takes immediate action, which stirs up a lot of publicity. Is the calling of names a more important human rights matter than the harm caused to 14 million unemployed people and their families? The SAHRC is supposed to ensure that the rights in the Bill of Rights are respected by Parliament and the government.

In our Complaint of 26 March 2019, we listed clauses in the Bill of Rights that are not being observed. For instance, section 7(2) says the state must “respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights”. The state must therefore do all in its power to end unemployment and to remove the laws and regulations that interfere with the right to work.

Parliament and the SAHRC seem not to know about sections 7(1), 7(2), 9(1), 9(3), 10, 11, 12(1), 12(1)(e), 12(2)(b), 22 and 23(1) of the Bill of Rights, which should protect the rights of the unemployed, but they do not! Section 7(1) says: This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.” Section 7(2) says: The state must respect, protect and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights.”

We will not spell out all eleven of our rights that the SAHRC has decided to ignore but we will quote a few more to show that we have serious grounds for our double complaint. The first is our complaint that the government is ignoring the human rights of South Africa’s unemployed people. The second is that the human rights constitutional watchdog does not carry out its duty when the complaint is against the people sitting on the benches of Parliament.

Section 9(1) of the Bill of Rights says: “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” Section 10. “Human Dignity: says Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.” Ask anyone who is unemployed whether their rights are protected, whether their dignity is protected, and whether they know of any time when the SAHRC has come to their assistance. They will first ask you: Who are they? And when you tell them, the answers will be: No, No and No!

The Commission deliberately ignored the important facts and deflected and responded to our complaint by saying: “The SAHRC has assessed your enquiry and is of the view that the relief you seek: to amend legislation adopted by Parliament, is not within the mandate of the SAHRC. You may follow relevant procedures and processes with Parliament to pursue the relief you seek.”

We never wanted them to amend the legislation. However, we did want them to investigate the violation of human rights caused by the legislation passed by Parliament. Our picketing in front of the Commission offices was to demand that they do a proper investigation of our legitimate human rights complaint, based on the Bill of Rights, which is there to guide them in their duties.

We have gone to some trouble to list what those duties are as stated in the Constitution. Section 184 (1) of the Constitution says that the Human Rights Commission must (a) promote respect for human rights and a culture of human rights; (b) promote the protection, development, and attainment of human rights; and (c) monitor and assess the observance of human rights in the Republic. We see that according to the Constitution the Human Rights Commission has to perform its functions ‘without fear, favour or prejudice.

We will not rest until the Commission does a full investigation of our detailed complaint and sends us a proper reply that we can share with the millions of unfortunate unemployed people of our nation. We make that demand because we believe that the reason for the huge level of unemployment in South Africa is that labour legislation works in favour of the employed and against the unemployed, which is an abuse of the human rights of the unemployed. The situation is so bad for the unemployed that they would be much better off if there was no labour law at all.

Xolile Mpini - CEO of the Langeberg Unemployed Forum.