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Anger at Zille disrupts SAHRC Water and Sanitation Hearing in Western Cape

27 November 2012
ATTTENTION: Editors and Reporters

On Monday the Deputy-Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission, Dr Pregs Govender led the Commission’s Provincial Hearing on Water and Sanitation in the Western Cape in Zwelethemba, Worcester.
National, provincial and local government as well as the Office of the Public Protector, the Commission on Gender Equality, the Pan South African Language Board and the Auditor General were present. Communities told the hearing of the violation of human rights of rural and urban communities across the Western Cape including Rawsonville, Zwelethemba, Ceres, Villiersdorp, and Khayelitsha. 

As in all other provincial hearings, the SAHRC called on government to be held accountable to poor communities.  People raised a range of issues, Dr Govender said.
“Communities spoke of high levels of rape in areas with poor sanitation provision; homes where the same pipe that drains the toilet supplies the water for cooking and washing; children who constantly struggle with diarrhea from dirty water; and many other stories of despair.

The SAHRC also heard from civil society groups who described lack of maintenance rendering provided toilets unusable; leaks not repaired by the municipality leading to astronomical water bills charged to households with no income; lack of adequate sanitation being the most significant reason for absenteeism of girls from schools; the monopoly of large commercial farms on river water; and the failure to transform local water boards,” Dr Govender added.

Throughout the day, people queued patiently outside to register complaints about water and sanitation in the province to the SAHRC.
The frustration of many in attendance grew into a vocal but nonviolent protest at the arrival of Premier Helen Zille. 

“The SAHRC acted without fear, favour or prejudice in responding to the protest.  The Commission stands by the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest of community members.    However, the opportunity provided by the Premier’s willingness to attend the hearing and to engage in dialogue to promote accountability was missed,” added Deputy-Chair Govender.

Due to the inability to continue the proceedings, the Commission regrettably was forced to end the hearing an hour before its scheduled closure and will now obtain written responses from government departments and other stakeholders.

Issued by:
Isaac Mangena
Head: Communications

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