- As I write this, I am having a drink with my colleague Nick Owsley, a graduate with an Honours Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Cape Town. With Human Rights Day approaching I cannot help but think how fortunate our generation is. A mere 18 years ago in South Africa it was regarded as breaking the law for a black person to have a drink with a white person in many watering holes - how far we have come since then.
Thankfully all that has changed, democracy has done away with the old and has breathed new beginnings. South Africans now have equal rights and equal opportunities.
As a young person, what excites me most about democracy is the fact that the opportunities for young people to craft better lifestyles for themselves are enormous. What’s even better is the fact that they are open to everyone, regardless of colour, creed or other qualifying factors. Everywhere you turn, new programmes and projects are being implemented to uplift young people.
Sadly, the truth is that many of our young people who need these opportunities the most often do not know of their existence.
Lazy or misinformed?
I am of the belief that I am one of many youths that has been able to access a slice of the opportunities that came with the advent of democracy. Because of this I now find myself educated and employed. Sadly though, it’s a different case with many of my peers. I often find myself pondering about the challenges they face on a daily basis, as young South Africans without jobs, skills or education.
In the past when I reflected on such matters, I invariably came to the conclusion that the reason behind their status quo is that many of them are simply just lazy or reluctant to look for opportunities or take on other alternatives. Or perhaps they are waiting for manna from heaven (government).
It was only after I went home for my university holidays that I changed my assumption. Upon my arrival I bumped into an old friend of mine I schooled with named Ali. Unlike me, Ali completed his matric with flying colours.
Although he did well in matric, I was rather shocked to learn that he was sitting at home, unable to continue with his studies due to financial instability. My knowledge of Ali’s financial challenges made me empathise with him initially, however my empathy was soon replaced by exasperation. Did Ali not know that there were a lot of programmes and bursaries available to help people like him? Surely he must have known about the National Student Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa (NSFAS) or about the Vodacom bursary scheme or the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union bursary fund?
In truth, Ali was clueless that such programmes even exist and he is not the only one. Studies show that 8 out of 10 young people in South Africa (especially in the rural areas) are unaware about the available opportunities and programmes provided by the government, corporates and other stakeholders to assist them where necessary.
Surely, something must be going wrong, and it cannot just be ignorance. It is more than that. Why is this vital information not filtering through to those who need it the most?
Information is key
An article by Wendy McMillan and Robert Barrie reveals that most students from rural areas have to rely on other students who experienced university to access information, including assistance in applying and registering. The data also showed that knowledge about university access is severely lacking in rural areas.
“I didn’t know about bursaries or something like that so that you can go to university,” explained one student when interviewed.
For someone who grew up in the underdeveloped province of Limpopo, I would agree that accessing information as well as a general lack of information is a major concern in rural areas. Not only is it difficult to access, sometimes it just never reaches the intended audience.
Lack of skills and resources
Information on how they can better their lives is crucial to the development of rural communities, but there are many barriers faced in terms of accessing this information. Some of these include access to Internet, libraries, electricity, telecommunication, utilities, roads and transportation, low level of literacy, lack of proper information services, technical competencies and much more.
Although some communities in South Africa have these resources, poor infrastructure can hinder access to them for many. For instance, some people have to travel long distances to reach these services (i.e. libraries, clinics, Internet café, etc.).
Skills shortages also contribute to this dilemma. Although there are some communities with access to resources for information, this often does not resolve anything because they do not have the skills to use those resources. Many people cannot operate the computer or make use of the Internet, training is in short supply and thus these resources fail to serve the very communities they were supposed to be assisting. In addition, the skills that many who are fortunate enough to attend tertiary institutions are taught often do not meet the needs of the job market for which they are being prepared.
Where to from here?
Fortunately, all is not doom and gloom, there is a way to improve information dissemination and make sure people (rural or otherwise) are aware of the opportunities available to them. Firstly, libraries and information centres should develop their collections, facilities and services to meet the information needs of their patrons. To achieve this, the government and its institutions need to carefully and thoroughly understand information needs, ways people seek information, information services and information systems. Furthermore, it is important that the government understands the purpose for which information is required, the environment where the user operates, sources and channels preferred for acquiring information.
In a paper on rural development, Manir Abdullahi Kamba of Bayero University Kano in Nigeria says that it should be a priority to educate communities to know the importance of information that is relevant to their immediate activities. He adds that harnessing information resources for development can only be achieved when the community values information, such that they are ready to seek and use information in solving daily activities regardless of the distance, format or medium in which the information is available.
As for skills shortage, according to an article on skills.oecd, education and training systems need to intimately understand the demand for skills and the drivers of changes in skills demand. In addition, employers need to work with education and training systems to provide that information and design training that meets their practical needs.
I am excited about a new project from Fetola called the Graduate Asset Programme (GAP). GAP is aimed at growing the small and medium enterprises sector in South Africa. By helping place thousands of capable and willing unemployed graduates into internships, GAP will assist the host businesses to gain much-needed skills and the graduates to gain valuable experiential learning. In this way both parties benefit.
Programmes run through the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) are also looking at ways to address critical skills shortages. One example is the Accelerated Artisans and Skills Training Programme. After going through an assessment, a young person can either undergo electrical, plumbing, boiler making, welding, bricklaying, carpentry, forklift, computer programming or air conditioning and refrigeration training. In addition, to increase the trainee’s chances of securing work opportunities, the programme also includes life skills and job preparedness training.
As we approach Human Rights Day, I firmly believe the youth of South Africa have enormous opportunities. It is a matter of implementing new strategies of sending out information and ensuring that it reaches its designation, ensuring that the information is well-understood and not misinterpreted in any way. This also includes promoting and implementing active programmes that can address skills shortages and actively provide training (on the job experience), particularly in areas and industries that lack capable human resources the most.
- Abram Molelemane is a third year journalism student at the Tshwane University of Technology. He has written for various publications such as Wealthwise magazine and Reckord newspaper. In 2011 he was nominated for the Reckord print journalist of the year award. He is currently a junior media officer at Fetola.
Each year the issue of space and access for civil society attending the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) continues to be a contentious one. It is becoming increasingly difficult to enter official sessions and side events. When one manages to overcome the exclusionary red tape, the space is far too limited to accommodate some 6 000 NGOs registered to attend CSW in New York.
Women's rights organisations are still managing to ‘move mountains’ with much less space but also with much less money since funding for gender equality is quickly dwindling. Sadly, these organisations actually have to justify why it makes good business sense to fund gender equality.
Panellists highlighted this at a CSW parallel event convened by the Association of Women's Rights in Development (AWID) on 9 March 2013 called “Successful strategies and funding mechanisms to eradicate violence against women: Women moving mountains”.
AWID conducted research to assess the aggregate impact of the Millennium Development Goal 3 Fund since it is one of the largest sums of money ever made available by a single donor. It is possibly the biggest infusion of resources since support for gender equality began in the 1970s. According to AWID, it demonstrates the kind of commitment required for turning words into action and gender equality into a reality.
Srilatha Batliwala a scholar associate with AWID, who presented the main findings, confirmed that they conducted the research with 33 out of the 45 fund recipients of the grantee organisations (73 percent). The work of the 33 organisations reached 164 countries, six continents and 15 regions. Gender-based violence and women's rights awareness reached over 224 million people.
The fund provided nearly 230 000 activists and 105 000 women's organisations with tools and training to help empower grassroots women and to strengthen outreach capacities. According to the results over 65 million grassroots women were reached.
When asked how these results could be proved since the beneficiaries' voices were not included in the study, Batliwala said, "You prove to me that it is wrong or give me the resources to do those studies, I do not have the money." She also explained that several organisations corroborated the data since their work as they had independent evaluations.
AWID's coordinator of women's rights information, Gabriela De Cicco, summed up the key point, "High-impact and multi-year funding enables women's groups and networks to protect laws and policies that advance women's rights as human rights and advocate for new ones to neutralise backlash. It allows them to create even bigger public pressure and visibility for women's rights issues". She contrasted this to the smaller localised efforts that fail to mobilise larger numbers of women.
Rupsa Mallik, director of programmes and innovation of CREA - a sexuality, gender and rights institute based in India – says the MDG3 fund encouraged reflection on their methodologies, "This demanded accountability on our part so that we were actually looking at the work with vigour measuring it and looking at the successes and challenges... we have a monitoring and evaluation unit now."
AWID said the findings not only give women's rights organisations reason to celebrate but also reveals the barriers they face in achieving gender equality. AWID hopes to use this as a powerful ‘evidence-based’ advocacy tool for a stronger case for why financial resources for women's rights work is central to global social justice.
Not only is more money needed for advancing rights, but more space is needed. Accredited NGOs can register up to 20 individuals to attend CSW but each NGO is only given two passes to enter the United Nations (UN) building.
Jenny Birchall from the Institute of Development Studies paints the full picture of the CSW scenario in her blog.
"There seems to be three CSWs taking place:
"The first one is taking place behind closed doors in the UN where member states’ delegates are engaged in their own discussions on progress and challenges in tackling violence against women and girls as well as negotiations around the conclusions document.
The second is taking place in the semi-public spaces of the UN buildings. In the north lawn building where a secondary pass is needed to enter, women's rights and gender equality advocates and activists with such a pass are strategising, lobbying their contacts in member state delegations to try and ensure that the conclusions documents retains strong language.
The third CSW is taking place outside the UN in the parallel events where participants from gender NGOs from around the world attended diverse sessions. Many of these events were completely full, with people standing, sitting on the floor and flowing out of the doors."
Birchall's question is fundamental - "What are the connections between the three spaces of the CSW?" One wonders whether there should be a change of tact in convening this high-level commission.
There were no agreed conclusions in 2011, 2012 and in 2013 the possibility of the same is high. With the fight for women's equality being far from over, it remains clear that we need alternatives to provide women's organisations with more money, space and access to continue advancing women's rights.
- Loveness Jambaya Nyakujarah is the Alliance and Partnerships Manager at Gender Links. This article is part of GL's special coverage of CSW 57.
The Angolan minister of Justice and Human Rights, Rui Mangueira, has presented the country’s report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Human, Civil and Political Rights, in which it highlights the progress made on the issue, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Addressing the 107th Session of the Human Rights Council, the minister mentioned the concrete steps taken by Angola in the political field, especially in the preservation of the rights, duties and fundamental guarantees of the citizens.
In this context, according to Mangueira, Angola is experiencing a dynamic process of political stability, reconstruction, economic and social development that involves the
participation of the civil society and the NGOs.
To read the article titled, “Angola presents Human Rights Pact Report,” click here.Source:Angola Press
The Zimbabwean police have arrested the country's most prominent rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, and four senior officials from the Movement for Democratic Change, a day after the nation voted in a referendum on a new constitution that calls for more protection against human rights violations.
According to a police official, Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai's chief legal adviser, Thabani Mpofu, is accused of impersonating police by compiling dossiers on unspecified crimes.
On one hand Mtetwa was arrested after she demanded that police produce a search warrant at the suburban house used by Mpofu. On the other hand, officers accuse her of trying to take photographs of a security detail on her mobile phone and she was forced into a police vehicle.
To read the article titled, “Zim police charge lawyer with 'obstructing justice',” click here.Source:Mail & Guardian
Zimbabwe says it will not abide by an African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) recommendation to accommodate citizens living abroad to vote in 16 March 2013 referendum.
The African Union body agreed last month that excluding ordinary people in the diaspora is a violation of their rights to participate freely in government.
However, the country says neither its current nor proposed constitution compel it to cater for citizens living abroad other than those working in government service.
To read the article titled, “No vote for Zimbabweans outside the country,” click here.Source:SABC News
Rights groups have reacted with outrage to the comments by the Eastern Cape MEC for Education, Mandla Makapula, that children do not have any rights.
The MEC has been quoted by the Eastern Cape’s Dispatch Online as saying no children under the age of 21 - who are still dependent on their parents for food and shelter - have any rights.
“For you, rights come later in life when you are independent, finished studying and have your own place to stay and your own car. That is when you can start talking about rights,” he explains.
To read the article titled, “E Cape education minister says children have no rights,” click here.Source:Mail & Guardian
According to an article by Passy Mabulana, there is an increasing number of brothels in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s city of Goma, and a rise in the number of underage girls working in them.
Mubalama quotes Faustin Wasolela of local NGO Development Action for the Protection of Women and Children, as saying that, “These brothels take in many minors, most of whom come from poor and destitute families in North Kivu.”
16-year old Masika (a pseudonym used to protect her identity) is a case in point. Masika has been working as a waitress in a small bar as a waiter during the day and as a prostitute in the evenings from 2010.
To read the article titled, “Brothels and child sex workers on the rise in Goma,” click here.Source:Radio Netherlands Worldwide Africa
Scores of independent Zimbabwean civic, pro-democracy and rights groups say they will boycott monitoring of voting in a referendum on a new constitution unless the state election commission withdraws bans on activists that affect several key local organisations.
The commission has so far refused to accredit as poll monitors members of the Zimbabwe Association of Human Rights and says groups under police investigation will also be barred access to the 16 March 2013 polling.
To read the article titled, “Zimbabwe monitors to boycott poll,” click here.Source:News24
- The recent death of Mozambican taxi driver, Mido Macia, at the hands of police officials has once again turned the world’s attention to police brutality in South Africa. This incident only became a major media sensation because of video footage of Macia being dragged behind a police vehicle to the police station, where he was allegedly beaten to death. Statements condemning the incident have been forthcoming from South Africa’s political and police leaders, but they appear to be in denial about the scale of the problem, putting it down to a ‘handful of officers’. However, when considering that police abuse has been taking place for a number of years now, it is only a matter of time before a similar incident occurs.
Government’s denial of the crisis may be caused by the fact that it is rooted in the longstanding and persistent problem of poor leadership in the South African Police Service (SAPS). South Africa’s political leaders have not recognised policing as an important profession that requires high levels of skill and integrity. President Thabo Mbeki appointed Jackie Selebi, despite his lack of experience in and knowledge of policing, as the SAPS National Commissioner late in 1999. Selebi talked and acted tough. But it wasnot long before he revealed his lack of understanding of the skills required to ensure that the tens of thousands of armed officials under his command would use their powers primarily to ensure public safety and enforce the law.
One of Selebi’s first strategic mistakes was to push for a mass recruitment drive of police officers. As crime levels were rising substantially at the time, Selebi assumed that ‘more police officials equals less crime’. The SAPS subsequently received a generous budgetary increase about twice that of the inflation rate. As a result, almost 70 000 more people have been recruited into the organisation since 2002. Unfortunately, Selebi was less interested in the importance of the quality and integrity of these recruits.
Selebi’s unwillingness to learn from the extensive policing experience around him or from international studies meant that he had little appreciation of the dangers that mass recruitment drives could pose. Hundreds if not thousands of people who either failed the basic requirements or were otherwise not fit to be police officials were allowed into the SAPS. Training was shortened from two years to one, and station-level commanders found themselves supervising large numbers of inadequately trained recruits without additional support. Management systems started to weaken as Selebi appointed people to senior posts regardless of their expertise or abilities.
One particularly notorious example took place in 2005 when Selebi appointed the new head of the SAPS’ National Inspectorate. This inspectorate was crucial for internal accountability as it was supposed to ensure that police stations adhered to SAPS regulations by undertaking station level inspections each year. Selebi appointed a person whom the Public Service Commission had recommended ‘be removed from his post for gross incompetence and failure to perform his duties’ while heading another government agency. It did not take long before the National Inspectorate collapsed and many stations went for years without being inspected. Other poor appointments made it abundantly clear that, under Selebi, promotion was based on political and personal loyalties and had little to do with professionalism or integrity.
As highly skilled senior managers left and others were ignored, a number of additional strategic blunders occurred. For example, Selebi shut down the important ‘area management’ tier that oversaw management and operations of clusters of police stations. This went along with the disbandment or ‘decentralisation’ of several important specialised police units such as the Anti-Corruption Unit, the murder and robbery units, the Family, Child and Sexual Offences Units and the Public Order Policing Units. The damaging effects of these moves are still being felt. With the weakening of specialised detective units, house and business robberies soared: between 2006 and 2009 these crimes had increased by 100 percent and 296 percent respectively. The FCS units have only recently been re-established and SAPS is struggling with public order policing, as the Marikana massacre so tragically highlighted.
When Selebi was finally forced out of the police after being convicted of corruption, many thought that more careful consideration would be given to the appointment of the new Commissioner. Unfortunately, this was not to be. President Jacob Zuma appointed his friend and political ally Bheki Cele to the top job. Once again the SAPS was saddled with a head who had no experience of policing and seemed to think the job simply required tough talk. To emphasise the ‘maximum force’ doctrine taking root among South Africa’s political leaders, military ranks were re-introduced and ‘shoot to kill’ political rhetoric became commonplace. Eventually, Cele was fired by President Zuma following a board of inquiry that found he acted unlawfully in a R1.7 billion police headquarter lease deal.
It is therefore not surprising that most indicators highlight ongoing and widespread problems with the police. Consider the following:
- Between 2006 and 2009 the number of people shot dead by the police doubled from 281 to 556, despite crime having decreased by almost 20 percent since 2002;
- The national spokesperson of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Moses Dlamini, stated during a national radio programme on 4 March 2013 that an assessment of complaints against the police shows that over the past 12 months ‘there is a pattern of abuse’;
- Total civil claims against the police for abuses including wrongful arrests and destruction of property more than doubled in the past two years to R14.7 billion;
- The 2012 National Victims of Crime Survey revealed that police corruption is the second most prevalent form of public sector corruption as reported by victims, and the rate has increased since 2011; and
- Less than half the adult population trust the police (42 percent) and 66 percent think that corruption is widespread in the police.
Until the NDP’s recommendations are implemented, budget allocations to the SAPS will be spent on poorly considered policing strategies that are not rooted in international or local best practice. Frustrated and demoralised police officials will continue to engage in corruption and other acts of misconduct. Public mistrust of the police will remain, which will in turn limit the SAPS’ ability to reduce crime. South Africa has the resources, people and expertise to substantially improve policing. Hopefully the country’s leadership will realise this and act on the NDP’s recommendations as a matter of urgency.
- Gareth Newham is head of Governance, Crime and Justice Division at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria. This article first appeared on the ISS website (http://www.issafrica.org).
Mourners in Mozambique have buried a taxi driver, Mido Macia, who died in custody in South Africa after officers cuffed him to their van and dragged him through the streets.
Before the funeral on 9 March 2013, Human Rights League, a non-governmental organisation, marched to the South African High Commission in central Maputo.
The chanted: ‘Down with xenophobia’. ‘Stop Humiliating Mozambicans’ and ‘Mido Macia Forever’.
To read the article titled, “Anger at SA police at taxi driver's funeral,” click here.Source:News24