SAHRC commemorates International
Human Rights Day at the last Provincial Water and Sanitation Hearing in Gauteng
10th December 2012
ATTTENTION: Editors and Reporters
The 10th December 2012 marks International Human Rights Day. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) commemorated this day at its last provincial Water and Sanitation hearing at Suurman Community Hall in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria.
This last hearing in Gauteng forms part of a series of hearings that have been conducted in eight other provinces from August to December 2012.
These hearings are located within the SAHRC’s poverty and inequality strategy.
“This year the UN theme for today is ‘My voice counts’, recognizing that across the world, from Egypt to New York, people have been protesting against local dictators as well as a global system that benefits the 1% at the expense of the 99%,” said SAHRC deputy-chairperson Pregs Govender who led the hearings.
“In SA too, unemployment and precarious employment have deepened inequality and has prevented people who are poor from exercising or enjoying their Constitutional rights. Through the hearings the SAHRC has ensured that national departments, from the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in the Presidency to provincial and local government departments came to listen to and respond to the voices of people who are poor, ” Govender added.
Like in the rest of the country where public hearings were held, community members in Suurman, Hammanskraal angrily raised issues they have regarding lack of water and sanitations, and asked that the SAHRC push government to speedily resolve the backlog of problems in their community.
Parents raised concerns about the effect that the lack of clean flushing toilets have on their children.
“Children at school are using untidy and waterless toilets which give them diseases,” one parent said at the hearing in Suurman.
The South African constitution, coincidentally signed by former President Nelson Mandela today in 1996, demands that every citizen should have access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
It is of concern that we are still having areas like Dilopye village in Hammanskraal where people have no water or are forced to share drinking water with animals.
Another resident indicated that at the school his children attend, the pupils are made to pay for water. “Why should school children pay lots of money for water while nearby factories pay less”, he asked.
“Water is life, sanitation is dignity”, has been the message the SAHRC carried to its hearings across the country since August.
The lack of inter-governmental co-operation and meaningful public consultation and participation underpin the lack of delivery of basic rights.
The DPME said at the hearings that approximately 11%, or 1.4million,households in South Africa have no access to clean drinking water.
The SAHRC hearings demonstrate how the right to sanitation is intertwined with other rights such as water, health, housing, safety, equality, dignity, education and security. None of these rights can be addressed in isolation of each other. Yet, policy-makers often develop implementation strategies that are fragmented, short-term and unsustainable. This ignores the inter-dependence, indivisibility and universality of rights.
It’s reported that municipalities will receive R90bn over the next 3yrs. If R70bn of this money could be directed toward water and sanitation, it will eradicate the backlog across the country.
The DPME reported that “this could mean the provision of electricity and refuse collection, among others, in the those municipality suffer instead.
They were challenged by the Deputy Chair who asserted that:"The Human Rights Commission is saying to government that it cannot trade off one socio-economic right with another. It has to address the rights of people who are poor in a holistic and sustainable manner. Water and sanitation are not charity, they are human rights"
The hearings will culminate in a National Hearing in March 2013, where the Commission’s findings will be presented to Parliament and the people of South Africa.
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