Let’s not forget what rights we have as citizens

DURING this month we will be celebrating human rights which form a cornerstone of our democracy. I am not going to dig into the history of human rights or talk about the Geneva Convention, I will only talk about our Bill of Rights which is chapter 2 of our country’s constitution.

The government of this country has the responsibility to protect these rights and uphold our constitution:

  • Everyone is equal before the court of law, and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law, and everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their right respected and protected;
  • Everyone has the right to life, no one should kill one another and walk away with that without being taken to court and prosecuted. The state should guard against a high child mortality rate;
  • No one is entitled to slavery, servitude and forced labour. Government should create more decent jobs and should also recruit investors who are not going to exploit the workers.

The government should also regulate the employment agencies;

  • Every citizen of this country has the right to privacy. No news agency or individual has the right to disseminate information without the permission of the person involved;
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion provided that the religion or belief they are practising is protected by the law of the country. Every religious denomination should be treated equally and no one should be given preferential treatment over another;
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of expression that is not tantamount to hatred speech that is based on the race, ethnicity, gender or religion;
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of association and make a political choice of joining or forming a political party. There should be political tolerance at all times without intimidation;
  • Everyone has the right peacefully to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and present petitions. All the demonstrations and marches should be undertaken non-violently and there should be no provocation from the police as well, such as at the Marikana massacre;
  • No citizen may be deprived of citizenship and the foreigners should be protected by the state against xenophobia;
  • Every citizen has the right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the Republic of South Africa;
  • Every citizen has the right to choose his or her trade or occupation or profession freely and it should be legal;
  • The employer and employee have the right to fair labour practices which are legislated by the Labour Relations Act;
  • Everyone has the right to acquire or rent any property, no matter where is situated as it falls under the property law. The appropriation of the land should be done diligently and speedilyýEveryone has the right to access adequate housing and no one may be evicted from his or her home or have his or her home demolished without an order of the court made after exhausting all the avenues;
  • Everyone has the right to access a decent healthcare system, healthy food, clean water and social grants. No one may be refused emergency medical treatment;
  • Every child has the right to be protected from abuse and neglect;
  • Everyone has the right to basic education and adult basic education. Today we are seeing tertiary students being excluded financially, and we still have a shortage of schools and teachers.

I hope the current government will use this month as a yardstick to measure its performance. The failures and successes of a government depend on how it employs the rights in its policies.

Mzwandile Pepe Nkomombini, community activist, Zwide, Port Elizabeth

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