SAHRC media statement on the allegations of green cards for workers in Worcester, Western Cape
11th March 2015
Attention: Editors and reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) notes with concern the allegations arising in the media regarding the adoption of a “green card” system by a community policing forum in the Western Cape, to regulate the movement of workers within the area’s more affluent suburbs.
Media reports have indicated that workers in the Worcester area are being forced to apply for “green cards” which they must produce in order to gain access to these more affluent suburbs. The media have likened these reported incidences to the apartheid practice of pass laws, which constituted a significant violation of the rights of black persons. It is unclear from reports whether the “green card” system in the Worcester area is still operational. However the reports have indicated that the Western Cape Department of Community Safety has been charged with investigating the matter.
At this stage, the SAHRC has not received a formal complaint to investigate the issue and has therefore not made a human rights determination in this regard.
However, the SAHRC takes concern that the establishment of such a system would constitute a discriminatory practice which impacts upon the constitutional rights of the workers. These rights would primarily include the rights to equality and human dignity, and the right to freedom of movement.
The SAHRC has in the past investigated similar matters regarding gated communities and boom gates, and conducted public hearings into the matter in 2004. The report of the hearings found that that “as an institution responsible for the promotion, protection and observance of human rights, the Commission cannot condone conduct which resembles past discriminatory practices or denies people their fundamental human dignity.” The report also noted that, “given our own history of exclusion and separation we should be extremely careful, even if our motives are otherwise commendable, in embarking on an urban design that works against the notion of a united society. There was considerable evidence [from the hearings] that booms and closures do indeed exclude and separate in a manner inconsistent with the idea of an open city”.
The Commission’s provincial office will look closely into these reports with the view of launching an own initiative investigation.
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Issued by the SA Human Rights Commission
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