COSATU Human Rights Day Statement  

21 March 2022 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins all South Africans to remember and honour the memory of the Sharpeville martyrs whose commitment, bravery and self-sacrifice won for us the human rights that we enjoy today.  

We will never forget the 69 heroes and heroines that were slain in Sharpeville on the 21st March 1960 in their quest to free South Africa from the shackles of apartheid. They exposed the evil apartheid dictatorship and rallied the international community behind the struggle to dismantle it.  

On this Human Rights Day, the nation needs to reflect on the plight of those, who are still denied those rights. Despite the advances made in the past 28 years, the high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality remains unresolved, and these affect black people in general and Africans in particular.  

Millions of South Africans remain landless, and they still find themselves trapped in sprawling slums and haunted by the spectre of avoidable diseases and death.  

There is still severe exploitation, where workers’ rights and human rights are violated with impunity. This is more so amongst women, community care workers, domestic workers, and foreign nationals, who tend to make the bigger proportion of the vulnerable sections of the labour force.    

Domestic workers, in particular, remain outside South Africa’s labour laws and its protection. It is not enough that South Africa has adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), we need to see more deliberate action to implement the convention.  

The Federation urges the Human Rights Commission to do more to protect these workers. Laws must not just look good on paper; they must be consistently enforced and lead to real improvements in the lives of the majority of our people.   

The budget cuts have led to the Department of Labour and other Labour Market institutions to struggle to implement their mandate of enforcing workers’ rights.  

The Department needs to be allocated more resources to employ labour inspectors.  The CCMA needs to be adequately resourced to help protect workers’ rights.  

South Africa is lauded for its progressive human rights centric Constitution.  Yet too many of these rights have yet to be fully enjoyed by the poor.  

Over 2000 schools still have pit latrines.  Thousands of learning are made to learn under trees or in severely overcrowded classrooms. Thousands of patients are made to queue for hours on end at public hospitals as they cannot afford private healthcare. Millions live in squalid informal areas or sleep on the streets without water, sanitation, electricity, or dignity.  

Hundreds of thousands of farm workers are vulnerable to losing their homes when they are retrenched of dismissed. Millions of young people cannot find jobs, let alone decent jobs, in an economy with a 46% unemployment rate and a youth unemployment rate of 75%.  

Millions of children, women, the elderly, and persons with disabilities are victims of horrendous violent crimes in a nation cited as the most unequal by the World Bank and one where the population is growing but the SAPS personnel numbers are shrinking.  

It is time government takes these real human rights violations seriously.  The public expects action, not slogans, let alone the commercialisation of Human Rights Day.  

Issued by COSATU    

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794