Socio-economic issues – A brief look at the Bill of Rights

As mentioned in the previous columns, socio economic issues are one of the topics that are close to my heart. I would like to try and do my part in tackling the issues that affect ordinary South Africans from previously disadvantaged communities on a daily basis. These topics will – in the next few months – range from education, poverty alleviation to youth-related issues.

This column in particular was motivated by the fact that I also came from humble beginnings and I was saved by education from poverty. Also, it was because of the plight that I’ve seen in my community in Queenstown, Eastern Cape over the years. During my work travels across the country, I noticed that the daily struggles of our people are similar if not exactly the same in some cases.

However, before we start looking at these socio-economic issues, individually I thought being in the Human Rights Month it’s an opportune time for us to take a brief look at our Bill of Rights.

I took some time to read our constitution and I have learnt a few things about our basic human rights. I therefore thought it wouldn‘t be such a bad idea for most of us to know what our basic constitutional rights are, before we try and tackle the issues that affect us.

This is just to reiterate some of the basic rights that have been articulated by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) before. Below are some of the most crucial rights you should know.

1) The Right to Equality – this is one of the most violated one in South Africa, according to a 2017 report by SAHRC. This right states that everyone is equal and must be treated equally. No one has the right to discriminate against you based on your race, gender, sex, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language or birth among others.

2) Human Dignity – Everyone has a right to dignity and his/her dignity has to be respected.

3) Life – Everyone has a right to life and nobody, not even the state, has the right to take a life. This means that no person can be sentenced to death by the courts.

4) Freedom and Security – no one can be put in prison without good reason; be detained without trial; be tortured in any way or be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way. It means that all humans have a right to be free from all forms of violence from either public/private sources.

5) Arrested, Detained and Accused Persons – Any arrested person has a right to a lawyer and cannot be forced to speak or to make a confession. Prisoners must be kept in proper living conditions and may have visits from family members.

6) Personal Privacy – No one, not even the government, has the right to search your house or property or even have your possessions seized without following the correct legal channels. The government cannot infringe on the privacy of your communication – this includes opening your mails or listening to your phone calls.

7) Freedom of Expression – South Africans have the freedom to say, write or print what they want, but this right must never violate anyone else’s right or break the law in any way.

8) Freedom of Association – Everyone has the right to associate with anyone they want to associate with. This means people have a right to associate with a trade union, a political party, or any other club or association, including religious denominations and organisations, fraternities, and sports clubs.

9) Political Rights – Every citizen has the right to form a political party; to participate in the activities of, or recruit members for a political party and to campaign for a political party or cause. Every citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution and every adult citizen has the right to vote in elections for any political party, and to do so in secret.

10) Education – Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education; and to further education.

11) Slavery, Servitude and Forced Labour – You have a right to choose who you want to work for and the kind of work you do, and you must be paid for your work. No-one can be forced to work for someone else.

12) Healthcare, Food, Water and Social Services – Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care; sufficient food and water; and social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependents, appropriate social assistance.

13) Citizenship – No-one’s South African citizenship can ever be taken away from them.

14) Housing – Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing. The government cannot take your house away from you or evict you from your home if you own it.

15) Children – All children have the right to parental care, shelter, and food. Children may not be neglected or abused or forced to work.

Next week, we will be focusing on Basic Financial Skills: Mistakes I made with money & Lessons I’ve learnt.

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