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human rights in South Africa

human rights in South Africa

  • Thinking Is Overrated...

    In the past few weeks, there has been yet another huge public outcry on the functioning of the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) and this has provoked a range of talk (and a lot of hot air too) about how we can go about fixing things to make one of the larger national development funders in South Africa, work better. This talk and the occasional Business Day op-ed have however failed to look at the bigger picture of the development landscape and how that aspect affects not just the NLDTF or the National Development Agency (NDA) but the manner in which we build the post-1990 envisioned development state.
     
    In attempting to deal with any process to improve the functioning of the NLDTF or the NDA, it may be prudent to acknowledge the (very large) elephant in the room, which is the obvious lack of any sort of comprehensive social service and development legislation in South Africa that provides for the holistic location of both agencies as well the myriad of other public and private sector funding in the country. The lack of this overarching legislative framework for bringing the developmental state agenda to life, is the key to unlocking the value of both agencies as well as a host of the other good and great initiatives that seek to build a more just and equitable society[1].
     
    Thus any recommendations and conclusions to improve the NDA and NLDTF need to be understood in the context of what else is needed to ensure that this situation of a poorly functioning national development agency and a misaligned national lottery funder, are both fixed and not repeated in the way we develop and implement future initiatives to realise the ideals of the Freedom Charter and Constitution. The social, cultural and economic rights[2] of the people of SA are central to the way we think about and implement the programmes and policies that seek to meet and exceed those rights.

    On a macro level, we need to commence a dialogue about the nature of the social compact to meet and exceed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and ensure greater prosperity for all who live here. The state has claimed ownership of the developmental state and finding ways for civil society to engage meaningfully and constructively are limited. Admittedly, this is a reality of past and current modalities of engagement, but if we are looking to move ahead, then we need to be clear, as a nation, that civil society is not a secondary partner in this process. It is a collaborative relationship, where partners are engaging, on the ideals we seek to set and the process to achieve them.

    We must also be wary of the red herring touted by senior Department of Social Development (DoSD) officials about the lack of an apex civil society structure to engage with and thus, they “do not know who to engage with in civil society.” There are a range of current networks that can be called upon and if this is not enough, it is a simple matter to put out a public call for engagement.
     
    For the NLDTF and the NDA, there is a need for a piecemeal reform approach, as well as systemic change in the broad development landscape. It is possible for both these options to co-exist and given the urgent needs of the sector, we need to win space for both immediate reforms as suggested below, as well as a large-scale development priority shift.
     
    Piecemeal Reform:

    Better-designed regulations for both the NDA and the NLDTF are needed, with broad consultation and ideally this process should be funded by the respective entities but managed by civil society. In this fashion, we will have developed regulations that not only improve the functioning of the entities but are also owned by the people affected by them[3].
     
    We need a separate board for the NLDTF, to oversee the mandate of the NLDTF and ensure compliance with that mandate. This board will also serve to ensure that civil society is both represented and equally accountable for the success or failure of the NLDTF to meet its lofty mandate.
     
    We also need the Advisory Board for Social Development (Act 3 of 2001)[4] also needs to be appointed as a matter of critical urgency. It is baffling to say the least, that this matter has been outstanding for 11 years now. The appointment of such a board would ensure that talent, skills, knowledge and experience of the civil society sector is shared in the process of ensuring that development in SA takes place as a collaborative process between government, civil society, business and labour.
     
    So while we can ‘take-on’ the NLDTF in marches and media campaigns, it will serve the interests of civil society in general, much better, if we are to focus our collective energy on working together to bring about some macro-policy shifts that will create an enabling framework for a long term developmental approach to funding of civil society organisations at the coalface of delivery and those engaged in the process of constant innovation, not just of service delivery but of our thinking too.

    - Rajesh Latchman is the Coordinator of the National Welfare Forum, Volunteer Convenor of GCAP South Africa, guerrilla gardener, cyclist and an unreformed recycler. He writes in his personal capacity.



    [1] The need for an over-arching legislative framework for social services, National Welfare Forum, 2010 accessible on the following link www.forum.org.za/The-Need-for-an-Over-Arching-Legislative-Framework-May-2010
    [2] Understanding the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, Coalition for ICESCR ratification, 2010 accessible on www.blacksash.org.za/files/icescrseminardoc.pdf
  • Green Ultra Right Bombers

    So if you are wondering why the long silence since the post last week, well…I am in Durban after all, where things tend to move a little slower than Joburg and about as fast as Cape Town. And it has been busy: the ‘People’s Space’ at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), mostly at the initiative of Patrick Bond, has taken off and is always buzzing with energy, people and a whole herd of news crews from local and international media. There are activists, socialists, NGO people, more activists and a whole bunch of artists as well, mostly thanks to the Climate Train initiative and the great crew that was on board that long trip around South Africa to Durban.

    The ‘occupy space’ has also been buzzing and you should take a look at the video post from the Ambush Collective who descended upon it and built a wonderful garden for the future. Which brings us neatly to another aspect of the ‘occupy space’ in Durban. It is not your classic people-driven occupy, but rather a city approved space for people to occupy during COP17, which was negotiated with the city by the civil society representatives on the C17. It is in that sense a new kind of occupy, a government approved and temporary allowance for people to express and engage.  While there are so many ideological issues with such a concept, I am trying to be brave and creative enough to let go off those issues and ideas of occupy as we know it from OWS and focus on what has been happening there and maybe, some thinking about what may come of it post COP17. So far, nothing has come of the ‘occupy space’ since the march on Saturday, 3 December 2011 and in the words of my colleague, John Treat, it is now de-funked, which may go some way towards debunking the myth that international NGOs (INGOs) are capable of hijacking the occupy idea. That is something we should all be very grateful for.

    And that is pretty much where I feel we can leave this blog as it seems that my assertion that NGOs and other movements in civil society will try to co-opt and cannibalise the ideals and methods of occupy for their current agendas was in fact prescient – but, I feel that maybe I am being too harsh on the people and processes in SA. And there is good reason to be kinder to our levels of (dis)organisation and the nuances of our political history which make engagements with the SA government a challenge fraught with tensions and high-drama instead of a simple critical intellectual engagement and consensus building on moving forward.

    The how and why we are here mired in this stalemate is the subject of not just another blog but of several issuances from academics to cartoonists, locally and across the know universe. Yet, we as people of this nation and across all sectors seem unwilling to be brave enough to change or are too content with this divided society we are building. Or maybe it is simply that we do not care enough about how we work or fail to. Almost all conversations with locals and visitors alike tend to lead back to the question of leadership and lack thereof among civil society organisations as the key weakness in our ability to engage critically and effectively with government. And I tend to agree, though I still hold that the concept of an apex representative structure for civil society that is recognised by government is not just outmoded but also potentially harmful to the growth of ideas that manifest as ideals and changes to the stark poverty and inequality in SA. But going back to agreeing with the notion that there is a lack of leadership in the sector and what some sober and principled leadership can achieve: for a start it may help with my desire to see a better engagement process than the current hobbled together rigmarole of government doing things, civil society organisations responding negatively to it and inevitably a court process to find a better solution. I find it baffling that, in a country with a globally lauded Constitution and a rich pool of intellectual talent, we are seemingly constantly finding ourselves at loggerheads with each other over things that, at first glance at least, seem pretty obvious or common sense. A good example is the demands around climate secrets by Right2Know and while the demands themselves make for interesting reading, the fact that we must demand these things, seems to me that the ideals of the Freedom Charter are somehow being lost in this transition to a form of capitalist sanctioned democracy we are building… but maybe that is a blog for another day.
     
    The march on 3 December was a great show of both strength and courage from a range of people and organisations not willing to be boxed into corners by a government that is increasingly moving further right in the way it treats its people. The use of what Rehad Desai calls the “Green Bombers” to intimidate other allegedly anti-government civil society groups was an appalling act of machismo and it is worth reading Rehad’s post about the incident on Facebook.

    I am reminded of the outburst from former President Thabo Mbeki about the ‘ultra-leftists’ and how perceptions of political allegiance and positioning are really just perspectives. Maybe Mbeki did not realise how far right he had moved and thus some people did seem to him to be ultra left. Which is pretty much where we seem to be going with the COP17 process. The current deal period is about to expire in 2012 and with no deal here in Durban, it just means that we will have to deal with what is left, instead of doing what is right.

    - Rajesh Latchman is the Coordinator of the National Welfare Forum, Volunteer Convenor of GCAP South Africa, guerrilla gardener, cyclist and an unreformed recycler. He writes in his personal capacity.

  • Falling Asleep in Parliament

    Day two of the seminar started on time at 9h00 with a wonderfully concise and accurate account of the proceedings of day one, the key points raised and the ways to meet the challenges. But before I get to the summary of the day, I want to reflect briefly on the presentations of the afternoon from civil society which got me thinking again about what can only be described as a level of mediocrity that has seeped into the nature and content of civil society engagements. It would appear that civil society leaders and representatives are trapped in the outdated modality of only being able to state their narrow position based views. They seem to lack that essential quality of NGOs and civil society of being able to engage with ideas and in short, even just listen!

    Maybe, during the Apartheid era, it was an absolute necessity to have and hold on to a very clear position as the system was at fault and thus we had to fight it. This practice has however remained with us as we moved into being part of a free society and this dogmatic and outmoded way of working now reflects on civil society as mediocrity and just plain dullness. This dullness was in stark contrast to some of the vibrant and engaging presentations from government officials and made me feel rather sad to be on the civil society delegation.

    Maybe it is time for a new school of learning for civil society leaders and representatives to learn how to think, to listen, to engage with ideas and focus themselves on building a great country instead of retreating to the dark and dank spaces of being in opposition to government, being unable to engage with ideas and being just plain boring! Remember when NGOs and civil society in general was a space buzzing with the energy of ideas and action to build a better society and world?

    Well, please can we have offers to help us with working with and among our leaders and representatives to take us back there or to an even more amazing new space where we can be inspired and energised to learn, grow and contribute to building this country? Where are our NGOs and their leadership? Based on what I saw and heard over two days, I can confirm that (as a sector), we need help us to get back to this space of being thought leaders action heroes of delivery of the Freedom Charter!

    Who will volunteer to lead this process and dialogue?

    Now that I have made some people happy and others happier, let me list for you some of the key outcomes of the first day of the seminar. It reads like an amazing outcome for a single day of work and bear in mind all this largely without the direct influence of NGOs…

    The key points noted on day one of the seminar:

    There was consensus and understanding that Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are about human dignity at their core and in South Africa, they reflect the values of our Constitution and Freedom Charter. Giving life to the MDGs is as Minister Manuel said, is an expression of democracy.

    It was re-iterated that there is a clear commitment to the minimum standards of the MDGs and their achievement.

    There was a commitment to the necessity of a coordinated approach of activities from all three spheres of government to make sure the MDGs are met.

    That the process to institutionalise the MDGs at all levels of government work with an emphasis on the quality of the services provided will be promoted.

    There was also a clear acknowledgement on the need for emphasis on improved oversight of Parliament at provincial and national level. In addition, it was noted that monitoring and evaluation must be stepped up and tied to a larger role for the research and development aspects of delivery of the MDGs.

    That any lag in the delivery of the MDGs must be picked up via the oversight process and addressed. This oversight process must use the existing oversight tools to ensure that MDGs are met and implemented for all.

    That the MDGs will only be achieved through partnerships across all sectors of society and the questions, process, and implementation of partnerships with academic institutions and civil society must be addressed to ensure that all South Africans own the deliveries of MDGs.

    It was also good to hear and see Parliament being very aware of the post 2015 agenda and taking some steps of its own to ensure that the post MDG landscape in SA is informed by local conditions and imperatives first and foremost and that any international instruments are secondary to what out lofty and noble ideals are.

    The words of Minister Manuel that the MDGs are “important but not sufficient” must remain a focus for our thoughts about the post MDG era.

    That the focus on the rights enshrined in the Constitution must form the basis of any post 2015 agenda in SA with a clear focus on not just delivery numbers but quality of services.

    In terms of the role of Parliament, it was noted that:

    Effective delivery of the MDGs is tied to the effective oversight of such delivery in the four years remaining.

    That the legislature will use all available tools for such oversight and that such oversight will form part and parcel of annual institutional activities of the provincial and national legislature. This will be brought to life through improved coordination between houses of parliament and committees and cluster committees and in particular through using the Multi Party Women’s Caucus as a key driver of the process of ensuring realisation of gender rights.

    That this improved oversight will be supported by requests for increased financial and research support for Parliament.

    It was also noted that a holistic policy and legislative framework for development and social services, which was fit for, purpose was developed and promoted. That any such process was tied to the development of the role of civil society.

    - Rajesh Latchman is Coordinator at the National Welfare Forum and serves as a volunteer Convenor of GCAP-SA.

     

  • The Code is Embraced by South Africa’s Tourism Sector to Combat and Prevent Child Sexual Exploitation

    South Africa. At least 40 000 children in South Africa are exploited as child prostitutes each year.  The number of trafficked and exploited children is not known. Tourists, visiting businessmen and locals, sexually abuse and exploit these trafficked and enslaved children.

    Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) has brought the Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code) to South Africa. The Code is an instrument of self-regulation and corporate social responsibility, which provides increased protection to children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism. Thirty South African tourism businesses have signed The Code. This commitment requires adherence to six criteria that have been found to effectively prevent and combat commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC):

    1. Establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children
    2. Train personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations
    3. Introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children
    4. Provide information to travelers by means of catalogues, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc
    5. Provide information to local “key persons” at the destinations
    6. Report annually.

    Although South Africa is not a renowned child trafficking destination, certain realities in South Africa create the perfect backdrop for the exploitation of children:  the inflow of tourists, the ease with which people can cross its borders, high poverty levels and the lack of a specific anti-human trafficking law. South Africa has not yet made all forms of human trafficking illegal.  These deficiencies allow trafficked and exploited children into South Africa where they remain largely undetected and perpetrators escape punishment.

    South Africa’s tourism businesses have shown their commitment to prevent and help exploited children by signing and implementing The Code.  These businesses have been training their staff, repudiating the sexual exploitation of children and educating their customers with posters and flyers. These two events in Johannesburg (8 June) and Cape Town (9 June) showcased thirty signatories, mainly South African companies that are new to The Code: 

    Abang Africa Trust, Avis, Bickley House and Antrim Villa, Budget, Cape Grace, Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), Cape Town Tourism, City Lodge Hotels Ltd., City Sightseeing, Coral International Cape Town, Don Suites, Europcar, Fairfield Tours South Africa, First Car Rental, Greenways Hotel, Hotel le Vendome, Hertz, Peech Hotel, Peermont Hotels and Casinos, Protea Hotels, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Southern Sun, Spier, Taj Cape Town, The Backpack and Africa Travel Centre, Thebe Tourism Group, Tourvest Group, Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays and Winchester Mansions.
  • The Code is Embraced by South Africa’s Tourism Sector to Combat and Prevent Child Sexual Exploitation

    South Africa - At least 40,000 children in South Africa are exploited as child prostitutes each year. The number of trafficked and exploited children is not known. Tourists, visiting businessmen and locals, sexually abuse and exploit these trafficked and enslaved children. Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) has brought the Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code) to South Africa. The Code is an instrument of self-regulation and corporate social responsibility, which provides increased protection to children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.

    Thirty South African tourism businesses have signed The Code. This commitment requires adherence to six criteria that have been found to effectively prevent and combat commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC):

    1. Establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children;
    2. Train personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations;
    3. Introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children;
    4. Provide information to travelers by means of catalogues, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc.;
    5. Provide information to local “key persons” at the destinations;
    6. Report annually.

    Although South Africa is not a renowned child trafficking destination, certain realities in South Africa create the perfect backdrop for the exploitation of children: the inflow of tourists, the ease with which people can cross its borders, high poverty levels and the lack of a specific anti-human trafficking law. South Africa has not yet made all forms of human trafficking illegal.

    These deficiencies allow trafficked and exploited children into South Africa where they remain largely undetected and perpetrators escape punishment. South Africa’s tourism businesses have shown their commitment to prevent and help exploited children by signing and implementing The Code. These businesses have been training their staff, repudiating the sexual exploitation of children and educating their customers with posters and flyers.

    These two events in Johannesburg (8 June) and Cape Town (9 June) showcased thirty signatories, mainly South African companies that are new to The Code:

    Accor, Abang Africa Trust, Avis, Bickley House and Antrim Villa, Budget, Cape Grace, Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), Cape Town Tourism, City Lodge Hotels Ltd., City Sightseeing, Coral International Cape Town, Don Suites, Europcar, Fairfield Tours South Africa, First Car Rental, Greenways Hotel, Hotel le Vendome, Hertz, Peech Hotel, Peermont Hotels and Casinos, Protea Hotels, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Southern Sun, Spier, Taj Cape Town, The Backpack and Africa Travel Centre, Thebe Tourism Group, Tourvest Group, Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays and Winchester Mansions.
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