The Congress of South African Trade Unions wishes all workers and South Africans a wonderful Human Rights Day. This is a significant day that reminds us of the journey we have traveled and the sacrifices that have been made to ensure that people’s rights are respected and protected under the law in this country.
On this day, we remember the 69 martyrs of Sharpeville who laid down their lives in the fight against the unjust pass laws and apartheid in general. On that day those heroes and heroines affirmed the rights of black people in this country and rejected a system that treated them as second-class citizens. Their sacrifices and heroism will never be forgotten.
While we have made some progress, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to consolidate the culture of human rights. Our enacted laws have made it very clear that Human Rights are a priority for South Africa, but the enforcement mechanisms leave a lot to be desired.
We still have gender-based violence that undermines the rights of mostly women and the violence against children is still prevalent. The cancer of racism that is directed at mostly black people remains a scourge and the discrimination and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender(LGBT) community remains a stain and an embarrassment in our country.
At a workplace level, we have a big challenge with domestic workers, who are continuously abused and exploited. Farmworkers’ rights are also violated with impunity.
Most of the farmworkers and farm dwellers still do not have access to water or toilets; are exposed to toxic pesticides without the proper safety equipment, and earn low wages in South Africa.
They are denied legal benefits to which they were entitled and are often given substandard housing. Their families are vulnerable to evictions without any place to go if they were forced off the land. Most farmworkers are also denied paid sick leave as required by law.
COSATU would like to see the national government investing in land, infrastructure, and services where farmworkers are dwellers or beneficiaries, The amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution that speaks to the expropriation of land should prioritise farmworkers as beneficiaries.
The department of Labour, Agriculture, Justice and Constitutional Development, Social Services, Education, Women, Children and People with Disabilities, the South Africa Police Service need to act decisively to resolve the injustices prevailing in the farming sector.
The Federation would also like to see law enforcement agencies given proper training on protecting Human Rights in the country. The conduct of some law enforcement agencies undermines the rights of citizens and workers.
The extreme and widening economic inequality also needs to be addressed if human rights are to be more effective. The austerity measures that have targeted mainly the poor are not helping the cause of defending people’s human rights. In a country where about fifteen (15) million people struggle to have three meals a day, human rights are still a big challenge. We need appropriate policy responses to address the gap between the rich and poor.
Happy Human Right Day to all!
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794