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SA Human Rights Commission notes rise in complaints

16 March 2022

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has released its newest trends analysis report which reveals that while the number of complaints received annually is growing, there has also been an increase in hearings, inquiries and improved success in securing redress for complainants.

The new report covers the 2019/2020 financial year and does not take into account the national changes and challenges that emerged since the national state of disaster was declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March 2020.

It aims to provide a general overview of the handling of complaints by the commission over the financial year. As a body set up to promote a culture of human rights and observe how this is observed in the country, the SAHRC has the power to investigate and report on human rights abuses, take steps to redress situations in which human rights are violated, carry out research and educate the public.

The trends report shows that the number of complaints received increased by 13% in a year, with the rise attributed to increased advocacy on the part of the commission. The highest number of complaints were received in the Western Cape and Gauteng, followed by Limpopo and the Free State. The lowest number was recorded by the Northern Cape.

The top three rights violations remained constant, with the ranking again topped by:

    equality issues;
    just administrative action, which involves non-responsiveness or delays by authorities to provide basic services; and
    the ESR category, which is defined as people’s rights to healthcare, water, food and social grants where needed.

A breakdown of the equality complaints showed that race, disability and sexual orientation were the most prominent problem issues.

Section 27 rights violations — failures in food, water, healthcare or social security provision — were reported mostly in Limpopo, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape. Gauteng had the fewest reports.

The report found the SAHRC had secured redress for complainants through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, investigations and equality court litigation. The commission has successfully ensured access to justice and the protection of dignity and equality through the increased use of enforcement mechanisms such as the subpoena process and contempt of court applications.

Past experience had helped the commission adapt to internal and external changes, one being the review of complaint handling procedures.

Success had also been seen in SA’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and the establishment of the National Preventative Mechanism at domestic and international levels.

The report found that while inequality and extreme poverty are still rife in SA, along with unacceptably high levels of corruption and violence, the SAHRC had established itself as an “A” status national human rights institution with a strong support network of stakeholders.

It found there had been a lack of due and proper recognition for the commission’s role in vindicating human rights in a society where the vulnerable and marginalised continue to bear the brunt of service delivery failures.

Source: TimesLIVE

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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