News / Africa

HRW: 2012 Mars South African Human Rights Record

Members of the judicial commission of inquiry into shootings at Lonmin's Marikana mine, near Rustenburg, South Africa, Oct. 1, 2012.
Members of the judicial commission of inquiry into shootings at Lonmin's Marikana mine, near Rustenburg, South Africa, Oct. 1, 2012.
Anita Powell
With one of the world's most liberal constitutions and a boisterous media sector, South Africa has long been the African continent's model for human rights.
 
But global watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) says events in 2012 have set the nation back significantly. Citing police shootings of striking miners and legislative proposals to significantly restrict press freedoms, the U.S.-based group says South Africa needs to refocus on maintaining freedoms it fought hard to gain in the wake of apartheid.
 
For many South Africans, the so-called Marikana massacre of August 16 was a scene straight out of that era: police shooting wildly into a crowd of angry black striking mine workers, killing 34.
 
Described by one major news outlet as "the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since 1960," the Marikana wildcat strike against platinum-mining giant Lonmin drew allegations of police brutality and laid bare dire conditions that many black workers face nearly 20 years after the end of apartheid.
 
Speaking from Johannesburg, where the group issued Global Report 2013 – a 665-page, ranked assessment of human rights issues in more than 80 countries – HRW's South Africa director Cameron Jacobs described the tragedy as emblematic of the country's most troubled post-apartheid year.
 
“The year 2012 in South Africa most probably represented one of its most challenging years," he said. "I think when one has to look at the number of issues in 2012, there have been certain threats around freedom of expression, challenges in respect to the rule of law and ... the right to equality, which is one of the cornerstones of our democracy.”
 
While police say they fired on the workers in self-defense, a government-commissioned investigation is ongoing, and Lonmin announced last week that it would implement a long-term plan that it says will significantly improve workers’ conditions, including better housing, flexible working hours, and leave policies that will allow workers to visit their families in the countryside.

Regarding legislative affairs, HRW joined local and international media houses in vocally opposing the Protection of State Information Bill, which is slated for approval this year, saying it would limit access to information and restrict press freedom. HRW also notes opposition to the pending Traditional Courts Bill, which would set up a separate legal system for 17 million South Africans living in rural areas. The bill predominantly affects poor blacks, and critics say the bill is also unconstitutional, unfair to women and a reprise of hateful apartheid laws.

Kayum Ahmed, CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission, who also says the Marikana shooting stands out as the most significant event of the year, says many of South Africa’s human rights problems go down to the most basic level.
 
“The constitution provides one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, which provides for access to basic services, including water," he said.  "And what we have discovered is that the situation in South Africa is fairly dire, in the sense that there are several municipalities that simply fail to provide access to water and sanitation in those respective provinces.”
 
But, Ahmed says, South Africa is a nation that has distinguished itself for its optimism despite its dark history.
 
“I think it would be difficult to say that 2012 has been the worst year for us as a country with respect to human rights," he said. "I think it’s certainly been a terrible year, but I do also see instances of hope and of optimism with respect to dealing with some of the challenges that we face in the country.”
 
He says his agency is engaging with the South African government to address the human rights challenges – and cited one notable success: providing nearly universal education.
 
Human Rights Watch acknowledged that the government has made some positive moves, such as strengthening farmworkers’ rights and being the continent’s leader in protecting the rights of gays and lesbians.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid