Migration into SA remains a challenge and has been amplified by governance deficits in parts of Africa. There is a perception that the South African Government in the recent past has been unwelcoming to the influx of migration. For example, the ANC in its conference held in July 2022, recommended that South Africa reviews its accession to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, with a view to re-acceding with reservations. The outcome of the ANC policy conference poses a major threat to South Africa’s international obligation on migration.
Connected to migration, ‘South Africa has failed to take meaningful measures to improve protection of social and economic rights, which has been undermined by widespread unemployment, inequality, poverty, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and corruption’.
Further, amid the economic meltdown and unemployment, many foreign nationals in South
Africa face xenophobic violence. Vigilante groups such as “Operation Dudula” and “Put South Africa First”, regularly conduct door-to-door searches for undocumented foreign nationals, whom they blame for South Africa’s high crime and unemployment rates.4
It is in this context that the interconnectedness of migration challenges and socio-economic
rights in South Africa deserves objective deliberation in view to give insight and assist the government with an unbiassed assessment of these challenges and rights thereof.
Human Rights Day on 21 March came at a time when South Africa is facing serious challenges on migration and failure of adequate socio-economic rights. Human Rights Day provided the opportunity for South Africa to reflect on the gains made since the adoption of the new Constitution in 1996. The Constitution in Chapter 2, provides for the Bill of Rights which is the cornerstone of South Africa’s constitutional and representative democracy. The Bill of Rights comprehensively addresses the country’s history of oppression, colonialism, slavery, racism and sexism and other forms of human violations. In light of the above challenges, the Bill of Rights embeds the rights of all people in South Africa in an enduring affirmation of the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. Human
Rights Day is historically linked with the events of Sharpeville of 21 March 1960. On that day 69 people died and 180 were wounded when police fired on a peaceful crowd that had gathered in protest against the pass laws imposed by the apartheid government. This day marked an affirmation by ordinary people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights. It became an iconic date in South Africa’s history that today we commemorate as Human Rights Day as a reminder of the rights and the cost paid for to get recognition of these human rights.
2024 elections are coming up, and there is an air of anxiousness attached to these elections. Even though Freedom House declared South Africa to have one the best democratic systems – there is profound political dissatisfaction in South Africa. It can be argued that with a violation, lack of protection or neglect of human rights – the byproduct of that is political dissatisfaction. We now grappling with this phenomenon of questioning democratic legitimacy in light of this political dissatisfaction. How can a democratic system even have room for the violation, non-protection or neglect of human rights? Continuing to advocating for vulnerable groups rights in South Africa, continues to be an important one – despite the many strides achieved so far in our history. The threat of democratic erosion puts a viability risk to the South African Constitution – a Constitution fundamental to the protection of human rights of all groups.
By Yanga Malotana, DDP Communications Strategist.
Views expressed in this piece are not necessarily in alignment with the Democracy Development Program.